All but six states have fielded at least one major party candidate for the White House in the modern primary era

The 2020 cycle has seen major party White House aspirants from 12 states officially enter the race, across all four regions on the country.

Six hail from the Northeast (Donald Trump and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, John Delaney of Maryland, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Bernie Sanders of Vermont), three from the South (Julian Castro and Beto O’Rourke of Texas and now-withdrawn Richard Ojeda of West Virginia), one from the Midwest (Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota), and four from the West (Kamala Harris of California, John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, and Jay Inslee of Washington).

It is not unusual to see candidates emerge from some of these highly populated states. Since 1972, there have been 16 major party presidential candidacies from California, 14 from Texas, and 13 from New York.

All told, at least one prominent Democrat or Republican has officially launched a presidential campaign from 44 states during this modern primary era – all but Alaska, Montana, Nevada, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wyoming.

There was speculation Oregon would get off this list in 2020, but Democratic U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley’s flirtations with a bid ended without any such fanfare.

So who are the most recent presidential candidates each state has produced?

Alabama: Democrat George Wallace (1976). Wallace carried three states and received 57 votes on the first convention ballot.

Alaska: Former two-term Democrat U.S. Senator Mike Gravel was the first Democrat in the 2008 race (April 17, 2006), but was a resident of Virginia at the time. He abandoned that bid in March 2008 to seek the Libertarian Party nomination.

Arizona: Republican John McCain (2008). McCain won the GOP nomination and 173 Electoral College votes.

Arkansas: Republican Mike Huckabee (2016). Huckabee’s second presidential campaign lasted 271 days and ended February 1st after a dismal ninth place finish in the Iowa caucuses. Huckabee had won eight contests during his 2008 bid.

California: Democrat Kamala Harris (2020). Harris entered the race on January 21, 2019. [Previously, Republican Carly Fiorina in 2016].

Colorado: Democrat John Hickenlooper (2020). Hickenlooper entered the race on March 4, 2019. [Previously, Republican Tom Tancredo in 2008].

Connecticut: Democrat Chris Dodd (2008). Dodd’s campaign lasted just shy of a year and he withdrew on January 3, 2008.

Delaware: Democrat Joe Biden (2008). At 338 days, Biden’s second presidential bid lasted more than three times longer than his first in 1988, but he also exited alongside Dodd on January 3, 2008.

Florida: Republicans Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush (2016). Rubio won the Minnesota caucuses and the D.C. and Puerto Rico primaries and won 123 delegate votes at the convention. Bush withdrew on February 20th after an underwhelming 251-day campaign.

Georgia: Republicans Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain (2012). Gingrich won the South Carolina and Georgia primaries and exited on May 2, 2012 while Cain withdrew on December 11, 2011 before any contests were held.

Hawaii: Democrat Tulsi Gabbard (2020). Gabbard launched her campaign on February 2, 2019. [Previously, Democrat Patsy Mink in 1972].

Idaho: Democrat Frank Church (1976). Church won five primaries and 19 votes at the convention.

Illinois: Democrat Barack Obama (2012). President Obama was reelected with 332 Electoral College votes.

Indiana: Republican Dan Quayle (2000). Quayle’s campaign lasted only 169 days when he withdrew on September 27, 1999. [Democratic South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg has formed an exploratory committee in 2020 and is expected to enter the race].

Iowa: Democrat Tom Vilsack (2008). Vilsack spent only 86 days on the campaign trail, withdrawing on February 23, 2007.

Kansas: Republican Sam Brownback (2008). Brownback’s campaign lasted 273 days and he withdrew on October 19, 2007.

Kentucky: Republican Rand Paul (2016). The Kentucky U.S. Senator could not replicate the success of his father and his 303-day campaign ended on February 3rd after the Iowa caucuses. He won two votes at the convention.

Louisiana: Republican Bobby Jindal (2016). Jindal’s campaign ended after 147 days on November 17, 2015.

Maine: Democrat Ed Muskie (1972). Muskie won a few primaries and 24 1/3 votes at the convention. [He also won one vote at the 1980 convention].

Maryland: Democrat John Delaney (2020). Delaney was the first Democrat to enter the 2020 race on July 28, 2017. [Previously, Republican Ben Carson in 2016].

Massachusetts: Democrat Elizabeth Warren (2020). Warren launched her campaign on February 9, 2019. [Previously, GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012].

Michigan: Republican Thad McCotter (2012). The congressman’s bewildering presidential campaign lasted only 83 days upon his withdrawal on September 22, 2011.

Minnesota: Democrat Amy Klobuchar (2020). Klobuchar entered the race on February 10, 2019. [Previously, Republicans Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann in 2012].

Mississippi: Democrat Cliff Finch (1980). The outgoing governor announced his campaign just a few weeks before leaving office; he withdrew after 101 days on April 2, 1980.

Missouri: Democrat Dick Gephardt (2004). Gephardt’s second presidential bid ended on January 20, 2004 after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Montana: Democrat James Murray (1952). The long-serving U.S. Senator received 12 first-ballot votes at the convention.

Nebraska: Democrat Bob Kerrey (1992). Kerrey only won the South Dakota primary and withdrew on March 5, 1992.

Nevada: The Silver State is one of two states never to produce a bona fide presidential candidate. Former GOP governor and U.S. Senator Paul Laxalt formed an exploratory committee in the 1988 cycle, but in August 1987, after 121 days, he chose not to run.

New Hampshire: Republican Bob Smith (2000). Before switching to an independent on July 13, 1999 (and back again to the GOP again on November 1st of that year), the U.S. Senator was running for the Republican presidential nomination (and subsequently U.S. Taxpayer’s nomination). His campaign ended on October 28, 1999.

New Jersey: Democrat Cory Booker (2020). Booker launched his campaign on February 1, 2019. [Previously, Republican Chris Christie in 2016].

New Mexico: Republican Gary Johnson (2012). Before becoming the Libertarian presidential nominee in 2012 and 2016, the former two-term Republican governor ran for the 2012 GOP nomination, which ended on December 28, 2011 after 252 days.

New York: Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand (2020). Trump’s reelection campaign began shortly after his inauguration in 2017 while Gillibrand announced her candidacy on March 17, 2019. [Previously, Trump, Republican George Pataki, and Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2016].

North Carolina: Democrat John Edwards (2008). Edwards’ second presidential run started much earlier in the cycle than his 2004 bid and lasted 399 days until his withdrawal on January 30, 2008 after the Florida primary.

North Dakota: Although he was never officially a candidate due to his support for Woodrow Wilson, Democratic Governor John Burke did win the state’s inaugural presidential primary on March 19, 1912 as a favorite son candidate. Burke did not seek or receive any convention votes for the presidency but did receive 386 votes for vice-president. No other non-fringe North Dakotan has run for president from a major party.

Ohio: Republican John Kasich (2016). Kasich won one primary (his home state) and captured 125 convention votes.

Oklahoma: Democrat Fred Harris (1976). Harris’ second presidential bid was 10 times longer (454 days) than his abbreviated campaign in the 1972 cycle when he was still serving in the U.S. Senate (48 days). Harris exited the race on April 8, 1976.

Oregon: Democrat Wayne Morse (1960). The Republican-turned-independent-turned-Democratic U.S. Senator appeared on the primary ballot in D.C., Maryland, and his home state but failed to place first in any contest or win any convention votes.

Pennsylvania: Republican Rick Santorum (2016). Santorum’s second presidential run was a shell of his 2012 campaign when he carried nearly a dozen states. His 2016 bid ended after 253 days on February 3, 2016 after placing 11th in the Iowa caucuses.

Rhode Island: Democrat Lincoln Chafee (2016). Chafee is the only Rhode Islander to run for president in the modern primary era, doing so for 143 days until his October 23, 2015 withdrawal from the race.

South Carolina: Republican Lindsey Graham (2016). The U.S. Senator’s campaign never caught fire and ended after 204 days on December 21, 2015.

South Dakota: Democrat George McGovern (1984). The 1972 presidential nominee followed up his 1980 U.S. Senate electoral loss with an underwhelming White House run that lasted 184 days and ended on March 14, 1984.

Tennessee: Republican Fred Thompson (2008). Thompson’s suspended his campaign after 139 days shortly following his disappointing third place finish at the South Carolina primary.

Texas: Democrat Julian Castro (2020). Castro announced his candidacy on January 12, 2019. [Previously, Republicans Ted Cruz and Rick Perry in 2016].

Utah: Republican Jon Huntsman (2012). Huntsman went all-in for New Hampshire, but finishing just third in the state’s primary led him to exit the race two days later on January 16, 2012 after 210 days on the campaign trail.

Vermont: Democrat Bernie Sanders (2020). Sanders launched his campaign on February 19, 2019 on the heels of his first White House run in 2016 that saw him carry nearly two-dozen states and win 1,865 convention votes.

Virginia: Republican Jim Gilmore and Democrat Jim Webb (2016). Both campaigns were short-lived – Gilmore’s lasting 198 days until February 12, 2016 and Webb’s just 111 days until October 20, 2015.

Washington: Democrat Jay Inslee (2020). The sitting governor announced his candidacy on March 1, 2019. [Previously, Democrat Scoop Jackson in 1976 who won 10 convention votes].

West Virginia: Democrat Richard Ojeda (2020). The former state Senator’s campaign lasted only 76 days before his exit on January 25, 2019. [Previously, Robert Byrd’s 1976 favorite son candidacy].

Wisconsin: Republican Scott Walker (2016). Considered one of the biggest busts on the 2016 cycle, Walker was on the campaign trail only 71 days when he withdrew on September 21, 2015.

Wyoming: Democrat John Kendrick (1924). The Cowboy State U.S. Senator received six votes on the first three ballots at the controversial 1924 convention.

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  1. Nikoli Orr on March 21, 2019 at 6:37 pm

    1. DE: “…three times longer than his first in ‘2008’…”??
    2. If I am not mistaken, the US Census Bureau still classifies MD as a “southern” state, along with West Virginia – making Julian Castro not the sole D aspirant from the South.
    3. One day, even NV and ND will produce bona fide major-party aspirants for 1600 PA Avenue, hopefully.
    4. (Obama appointee and entrepreneur) Andrew Yang of NY and (spiritual lecturer and author) Marianne Deborah Williamson of CA are also active and announced candidates – and each seem to be faring no worse than, say, Congresswomen Kirsten Gillibrand or Tulsi Gabbard, e.g. less than 5% in national and “early-state” polls [the author seems to rely on CNN as the primary source; unlike other media outlets, it routinely ignores/omits their existence as presidential contenders].

    • Dr. Eric Ostermeier on March 21, 2019 at 6:49 pm

      RE: #2. Yes, US Census Bureau classifies MD and DE as southern states (and the District of Columbia), but are have been culturally/politically more NE than Southern for a long enough period that they are frequently grouped into the NE region by non-Census studies. WV is listed as being in the South above.
      RE: #1. Ah – 1988. Updated, thank you.
      RE: #4. Finding an end point to the listing of candidates is a subjective exercise to be sure, and i think the case for Yang is stronger than that of Williamson, given his political resume. I would certainly not begrudge any report that lists them among the ‘main contenders’ or ‘bona fide candidates,’ but few do.

  2. Nikoli Orr on March 24, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    5. Ex-Senator Gravel is actually considering giving it another go, which would make Sanders and Biden the ‘youth’ candidates by comparison!
    6. Based on early-state and national surveys thus far, only Biden (who either SLIPPED or TIPPED regarding his intentions recently at a gathering in his adopted home state), Sanders, RF O’Rourke, Warren, and Harris could be considered ‘bona fide’ contenders; every one else seems to be only nominal aspirants (mired at less than 5%), regardless of the number of times she has won or he has stood for an elective office; regarding CNN, it at least ought to show headshots(!) of Williamson (who actually sought a US House seat in CA in ’14) and Yang, when mentioning all the formal and potential contenders in its numerous DEM nomination reports.

  3. Gorken Schliktenstein on March 25, 2019 at 2:00 pm

    Evan McMullin of Utah just ran for President in 2016. Got a good chunk of the vote too.

    And Delaware is still quite southern if you get away from I-95. I get your point on that one, but it’s called “slower lower” Delaware for a reason.

    • Dr Eric Ostermeier on March 25, 2019 at 2:25 pm

      True, but McMullin was not included as this study only examined major party candidacies.

      And, yes, there is definitely a history for Delaware’s occasional inclusion as a Southern state – the categorization one way or another has become a bit slippery in recent years.

  4. Nikoli Orr on March 26, 2019 at 1:14 am

    DE: “…occasional inclusion…categorization one way or another has become a bit slippery…” Presumed candidate Joe Biden, as well as Gephardt, have slyly tried to portray themselves as ‘sons of the South’ (to say nothing of Al Gore, though he was more DC than TN, at least back then), particularly in the 1988 cycle with the (inaugural) Super Tuesday votefest that had a pronounced (white) Dixieland emphasis. Still more cheeky(?) was the attempt made by future Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt in the aforementioned ’88 contest. Indeed, on what basis?

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