Presidential politics 101


We should have seen this coming. Right? I mean, in all honesty, Mitt Romney wasn’t even close to winning. It was a media event… as tired and overhyped as the Democracy Plaza setting we were repeatedly introduced to over and over (and over) again.


It was a test of our patience, and one we should have recognized. I mean… after all… station after staion, network after network kept at it: “And we are calling – Virginia – too close to call!” What kind of announcement is that anyway? Calling it too close to call? Really? That’s a prediction?

Why that’s as wonderful, helpful, and actually sneaky as trying to get me to tune in and stay watching as telling me for days leading in that the race was a tossup. And…

Oh yeah. That’s exactly what we were told.

But shouldn’t we all have known that Romney was doomed?

Seriously… strip it back to its basics… bare minimum… Romney is from Massachusetts and Paul Ryan is from Wisconsin. The Republicans lost both of those states to Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Shouldn’t that be a basic element of an election? A party’s ticket should win the states they come from. Seems pretty simple.

And yet, according to most of what I have seen, when the dust settles Romney will have earned barely over a third of the vote in Massachusetts. The state was never in play. Heck, out of the four states in such a conversation… Illinois, Massachusetts, Delaware and Wisconsin… we find the biggest victory margin for Obama came in Romney’s home.

That is t-r-o-u-b-l-e my friends, very simply and quite clearly spelled out. (Even John McCain and Sarah Palin won in Arizona and Alaska in 2008.)

Over the course of history though, this does seem to be a bit of a test. John Kerry and John Edwards split their states in 2004, winning Massachusetts but losing North Carolina. Al Gore and Joe Lieberman reversed things in their split for 2000, losing Tennessee and yet winning Connecticut. (In a way, I find this Gore result really funny, since Bill Clinton took Tennessee in the 1996 and 1992 elections with Gore as his running mate. Clinton can carry Gore’s state… Gore can’t.)

Amazingly though… take out McCain and Palin, and it’s 1992, George Bush and Dan Quayle were running, when they lost to Clinton and Gore, that we find the losing pair taking both of their home states. As far as I can tell, we would have to go way back to ever find a time when the winners didn’t take their home states… because I didn’t see one, and I got tired of going back after reaching Nixon.

But shouldn’t that be part of the equation? Maybe it’s too obvious. Maybe the idea that a candidate should be strong enough in the place they call home is so perfectly acceptable that in reality it’s considered naïve to look at it.


More than twenty years ago I was enrolled in a course on the American presidency. On one of the exams, a question involved acting as a campaign manager and outlining a strategy to be used for getting a candidate elected president. I seem to recall mentioning in my answer things like Jimmy Carter and the Playboy interview. (Look it up… he admitted having “lusted in my heart” and that ended up costing him support from women. Note, yes, he still won.) The point I remember trying to make involved finding positive lightning-bolt moments and not hitting landmines of controversy.

Most of all though… and I did not look for a blue book from the course to see if I did say this or not… one thing I believe I brought up was my being from Rhode Island, and that candidates didn’t need to waste their time visiting my home state.

Rhode Island is too small to put a candidate on the ballot for the presidency and vice presidency. Rhode Island would vote the way it did… almost without exception for the Democrats… pretty much regardless of whether or not a candidate stopped by for a cup of coffee and a pep rally. And, frankly, if you couldn’t win California or Texas or Florida or Illinois or any of the real Electoral College states (meaning those providing double-digits), there isn’t much Rhode Island can offer to help your candidacy.

Let’s expand on that idea of not visiting Rhode Island. Because the reality is, the thought is something a little bit more complex… no presidential campaign today is run to win in a traditional sense. And by that I mean that these campaigns are run to win the Electoral College vote… reach or exceed the magic number of 270 we hear so much about. They are not run to win the popular vote.

One of the first things any campaign strategist would do is look over the map and start planning the road to 270. With all due respect to the elections such as 1984 and 1972, every four years seems to have a block of states that will vote “red” or “blue” even if the candidate for their party was a tire swing supported by a whiffle ball as running mate.

As I write this, Florida still can’t figure out if the 2000 election results are finalized. So… you probably know… they certainly have no clue who they voted for in 2012. Of the other states offering 20 or more Electoral votes, Romney won Texas. (You or I could have won Texas without spending a single dollar in that state provided the word “Republican” was placed next to our name on the ballot.) Obama? He won New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and California. You need to win Rhode Island more than 20 times to make up that kind of deficit.

Obviously there’s more to it than that… Rhode Island isn’t the perfect example with so many states offering 10 or more votes to that magic goal of 270. However… (back to where we started…)

Mitt Romeny lost all six New England states. The Romney-Ryan team lost Michigan and Wisconsin… meaning a clean sweep of losses in every state and geographic region called home or birthplace.

It gets worse.

Ryan was introduced as Romney’s candidate for vice president in Virginia… Obama won Virginia.

Democratic convention this year… North Carolina… Obama won there.

Republican convention this year… Florida… yeah, still up in the air.

I don’t think Barack Obama did anything that special to win re-election. But geez… considering some of these basics… he didn’t have to against a Republican party that really didn’t seem to have anything in organized from the start.

How was this election called a dead heat again?

Lots of media people are going to tell you about Ohio and Florida, while tossing in Colorado. I won’t say it makes for the most riveting of television… but you can’t have hours of dead air, so let’s not blame the media.

In my mind… the reality is much simpler, because we all should have known Romney couldn’t win.

We always make jokes like “I wonder who he/she will vote for” when we see the candidate arrive at their voting place on Election Day. Ha-ha… very funny… since of course you vote for yourself.

Expand that to family… to friends… to those that you would count on, or he/she is counting on. As Debra says in a classic Everybody Loves Raymond episode: “I’m your wife. I don’t care if my platform was… anti-puppy. You have to vote for me.”

So true.

And yet both Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan can’t win the places they call home? Neither can John Edwards or Al Gore? And people get surprised over the results?

Tell me all you want about how a candidate needs to make an impression with a certain block of voters, or brings more to the table than just one state. Again… far as I can see… and sure, it deserves more research… there isn’t a national election for president where the winning ticket didn’t carry their home states. Oh… and those tire swings and whiffle balls? Massachusetts was called for Obama quite a while ago, and Wisconsin was going to be a struggle from before Ryan was selected all the way until it was lost by the Republicans.

Romney and Ryan couldn’t win the vote at home… and I don’t recall anyone mentioning that either of them have anything against puppies.

Simple enough.

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