Why Don’t Democrats Nominate Westerners?
The “Sarah Palin effect” has been felt, at least for the moment, across national and state polls. John McCain’s numbers are looking particularly strong in Western states, the region from which he and Palin hail.
For example, in polls conduct in the past week, McCain is up:
· 25 points in Alaska, compared to late July (Rasmussen)
· 13 points in North Dakota, compared to late July (Rasmussen)
· 11 points in Montana, compared to late July (Rasmussen)
· 10 points in Washington compared to a month ago (Rasmussen)
· 6 points in New Mexico, compared to mid-August (Rasmussen)
Obama appears to be holding steady in Colorado, home to the Democratic National Convention a few weeks ago.
But the selection of a Western politician for the VP slot is nothing new to the GOP – Palin joins a list that includes former Wyoming Congressman Dick Cheney (2000 & 2004), former California Senator Richard Nixon (1952 & 1956), California Governor Earl Warren (1948), and Oregon Senator Charles L. McNary (1940).
Democrats, on the other hand, have only nominated a Westerner one time for either the presidential or vice-presidential slot – and you have to go back nearly 150 years to find him: U.S. Senator Joseph Lane from Oregon was nominated as VP to join John C. Breckinridge’s Southern (pro-slavery) Democratic ticket in 1860.
Aside from Lane, the furthest West the Democratic Party has ventured to select its Vice Presidential nominee is the state of Texas: Lloyd Bentsen (1988), Lyndon B. Johnson (1960), and John Nance Garner (1932 & 1936).
The closest Democrats have come to a Western presidential nominee are Plains state politicians George McGovern (South Dakota, 1972) and William Jennings Bryan (Nebraska, 1896, 1900, 1908).
Aside from McCain, Republicans can list several Western presidential nominees to their credit: former California Governor Ronald Reagan (1980 & 1984), Nixon (1960, 1968, 1972), Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater (1964), and former California Senator John C. Frémont (1856).
For a party that endeavors to take advantage of the ‘changing demographics of the West’ (i.e. more minorities), Democrats have once again failed to steal home field advantage from the Republicans by not reaching out to Westerners and nominating one of their own (Plains State Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas would at least have been a step in the right direction).
Instead, the Democratic Party will remain, at least for the next four years, as a political party largely identified with the Northeast.
1. While Richard Bruce Cheney did represent WY for a sliver more than a decade, at the time of his selection as veep nominee, he was actually a legal resident of the Metroplex region of TX. Indeed, were it not for that provision in the Constitution (“…at least one of whom shall not be…”) the R ticket of 2000 would have comprised of a west Texan and a north Texan (there was even a federal court case regarding the residency of Cheney).
Though he never won or even stood for any office within the state, Tall Corn State native Herbert Clark Hoover commenced his political career in CA and was a resident during his presidential bids in both 1928 and 1932. After all, the Hoover Institution was founded and is located in his adopted home state.
2. Placing a westerner on the ticket is hardly a guarantee of electoral domination thereof. Even with AK Governor (and ID native and future part-time AZ dweller) Palin on the ticket, the Rs still ended up losing a congressional seat each in AK and ID that very cycle. As for 2020, CA Senator Kamela Harris is at least talked up by the pundit class. Fellow west-of-Mississippi Senator Amy Klobuchar, also with a law enforcement background, is often mentioned also. But as the BHO-Biden ticket proved twice over, it is not a ‘must’ that the Ds nominate someone Western or even Western-ish to successfully appeal to the voters of the region.