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WASHINGTON--In 1976, with voters still fuming over the Watergate scandals and Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, President Ford faced a tough uphill fight against a newcomer with anti-Washington credentials, former Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter. I remember a TV ad the Ford campaign's brilliant media team of Doug Bailey and the late John Deardourff crafted to plant doubts about the not-well-known Democratic nominee:
"Those who know Jimmy Carter best are from Georgia. That's why we thought you ought to know " And what followed was the viewers seeing on-screen and hearing a voice read a scroll of Georgia newspapers such as the Savannah News, the Augusta Herald, and the Marietta Journal, with the announcer adding for each,
The argument was uncomplicated. If the candidate's neighbors and friends who have known him the longest have doubts about him, then maybe voters ought to have a few second thoughts.
That Ford ad, not surprisingly, had no influence on Georgia voters, some 67 percent of whom voted for favorite son Carter. In fact, most presidential nominees, perhaps aided by hometown pride, do carry their home states--or at the very least run better there than they do nationally.
In 2008, John McCain won Arizona, just as Barack Obama carried Illinois and Hawaii. In 1984, Democrat Walter Mondale, who lost 49 states to Ronald Reagan, still won Minnesota, his home state.
Two exceptions come to mind. In 1972, Democrat George McGovern won just over 37 percent of the national vote against Richard Nixon and also lost 49 states, including his home state of South Dakota, where the Democrat ran eight points better than he did nationally. In 2000, Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee by 4 percent--and, with it, the White House--to George W. Bush.
The last candidate to win the White House while losing his home state was President Woodrow Wilson, who, despite being re-elected, failed to carry New Jersey.