The “Unfavorite Sons” (GOP Candidates and their States)

When one runs for president, it is assumed that one has a shot at one's home state. Some of the GOP hopefuls, however, look more like unfavorite sons (and daughters).

The Politico has an interesting piece on the relationship of a number of the GOP candidates and their home states:  The GOP’s unfavorite son primary

Romney’s not the only presidential hopeful whose home state popularity is lagging. Just about all of the GOP presidential candidates would have a hard time winning their own states if they ended up as the party nominee, which may factor into the thinking among many Republicans that the 2012 field is lackluster.


Tim Pawlenty never received a majority of the vote in Minnesota in his two successful runs for governor. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann almost certainly couldn’t win the state — her high-water mark in her own GOP-friendly district was 53 percent, registered during the Republican landslide year of 2010.

In statewide polls conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, both had higher unfavorable ratings than favorable.

Indeed, MA and MN seems likely blue in 2012 no matter who is nominated.  Obama won MA 62-36 in 2008, and Minnesota by 10 points.   As they say, past performance is not indicate of future gains, but still.

The piece also notes that Rick Santorum couldn’t win Pennsylvania, but that’s ok, since he can’t win the nomination in any event.

From there, the piece gets a bit strained in terms of making the unfavorite son bit work.  For example, in regards to Georgia:

Newt Gingrich, who has yet to set foot in his campaign’s Georgia headquarters, would lose the state to President Barack Obama, according to one recent poll. Fellow Georgian Herman Cain ran once for statewide office and failed to make it out of a Senate primary.

All true, although one expects that Georgia is quite likely to go GOP in November of 2012, so if either Gingrich or Cain were that nominee (unlikely as such outcomes may be), I expect they would likely win Georgia.

Likewise, it is true (as the piece notes) that Sarah Palin’s numbers in Alaska are down, the GOP will almost certainly win AK.

Trying to make Huntsman fit the mold is especially off the mark, since Romney is a semi-hometown candidate as well (and, like the other examples, would clearly win Utah in the general):

Even former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who remains relatively popular back home, has an asterisk by his name — a February survey of state Republicans by the Exoro Group showed Romney crushing Huntsman in a primary, 65 percent to 16 percent.

Really, the primary stuff is less interesting to me than is the fact that the candidates who are considered either front-runners or, at least, real potential nominees, might have a hard time (or, indeed, find it impossible) to win their home states.

I suppose Romney’s advantage is that he can claim, after a fashion, three states:  Massachusetts, Michigan, and Utah.  The GOP is guaranteed Utah, and it is not out of the question that Michigan could be competitive, so Romney would be able to claim some potential home turf win(s) if he is nominated (unlike the candidates from Minnesota).

If we go to the land of the unlikely, Ron Paul would win Texas, but Rudy Giuliani would not win New York.  And, of course, Rick Perry would win Texas.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Andre Kenji says:

    Just a dumb correction: MI is Michigan, not Minnesota(MN).

  2. You are correct, sir. Thanks for letting me know.

  3. DMan says:

    I’d be curious to see how each of these candidates does against “Generic Republican” in their home states. Doing particularly awful against a generic candidate in your home state would probably best qualify you for “Unfavorite Son” status.

  4. Kylopod says:

    I suppose the ideal would be for a candidate to come from a swing state. If he or she comes from a solid red or blue state, being on the ticket probably won’t make much of a difference, but hailing from a swing state like Ohio or Florida could prove to be a serious advantage.

  5. Trumwill says:

    I find it odd that you put Rick Perry in the “unlikely” category with Ron Paul and Rudy Giuliani. I think the nomination basically belongs to Romney, but if it were to go to someone else, I would probably tag Perry as the most likely, followed by Pawlenty.

  6. @Trumwill:

    I didn’t mean for Perry to be in the “unlikely” category–just Paul and Giuliani.

    I probably should have moved the tack-on about Perry in its own paragraph.