Another local industry – political ambition

So I was looking at lists of presidential candidates from recent elections, and was struck by the number of candidates from my small and somewhat out-of-the-way state, Massachusetts.  It looks as though MA is tied with New York and California for total number of people who have run for president since WW II – they each have 8.  Here are the candiates from the top few states, with primary winners in italics, and election winners in bold:

  • 8 – MA – JFK (’60), Henry Cabot Lodge (’64), Robert Kennedy (’68), Teddy Kennedy (’80), Dukakis (’88), Paul Tsongas (’92), Kerry (’04), Mitt Romney (’08)
  • 8 – CA – Earl Warren (’48,’52), Nixon (’60, ’68), Reagan (’68,’80,’84), Jerry Brown (’76, ’80, ’92), Alan Cranston (’84), Bob Dornan (’96), Pete Wilson (’96), Duncan Hunter (’08)
  • 8 – NY – Dewey (’48), Averell Harriman (’52), Rockefeller (’60, ’64, ’68), John Lindsey (’72), Shirley Chisholm (’72),  Steve Forbes (’96),  Hilary (’08), Giuliani (’08)
  • 7 – IL – Stevenson (’52,’56), Phil Crane (’80), John Anderson (’80), Jesse Jackson (’84), Paul Simon (’88), Carol Moseley Brown (’04), Obama (’08)
  • 6 – TX – Johnson (’56,’60,’64), Lloyd Bentsen (’76), John Connally (’80), George H. W. Bush (’80, ’88), Phil Gramm (’96), George W. Bush (’00, ’04)
  • 4 – OH – Robert Taft (’48,’52), John Glenn (’84), John Kasich (’00), Dennis Kucinich (’04,’08)
  • 3 – MN – Harold Stassen (’48 on), Humphrey (’60, ’68), Mondale (’84)

There have been ~110 candidates for the Democratic and Republican parties in the 16 elections since 1948, and a half dozen independents who have made a mark.   Texas has had the most actual presidents with 3, and Texas and Massachusetts have had the most election candidates with 3 each.

Massachusetts has 1/5 the population of New York and California, and yet has had as many people ambitious for the Oval Office as they do.  What’s in the water up here?  Part of it is all those Kennedys, but even without them the state would have put up much more than its share of candidates.

Maybe part of it is the activist nature of politics here.  People are pretty engaged in politics – it’s the local blood sport.   They can be merciless about it too, like forcing acting governor Jane Swift to sleep on her brother’s couch in 2001 when the Legislature wouldn’t grant her a housing allowance.  Historically Mass has been among the most progressive states – it freed its slaves while the Revolution was still going on – and it still leads the nation in a number of policies like charter schools, universal health care, gay marriage, and decriminalizing possession of marijuana.  Maybe there’s just more government done here than in most places.

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