US election history says it’s grim up north
They might have won the American Civil War, but the northern states of the USA have a poor record for producing presidents in modern times – a trend both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney will be hoping to end come November.
The last time a northerner served a full term in the White House, World War Two was still raging. Southern twangs and western drawls have filled the corridors of power ever since.
The US electorate’s aversion to northern politicians is remarkable and long-lasting. Harry S Truman – from stars-and-bars Missouri – started the trend when he stepped into the shoes of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945, and since then only one northerner has been elected president: John F Kennedy, in 1960.
Kennedy was assassinated – in deep-south Dallas – before his full four years were up, and his vice-president, Lyndon Johnson – a Texan – took over.
Gerald Ford is the only other president to come out of the north since then – and he only got the job because Californian Richard “Tricky Dicky” Nixon quit in the Watergate scandal. The Americans voted Ford out at the earliest opportunity and installed Jimmy Carter – a peanut farmer from Georgia – instead.
Since then, the job has gone solely to southerners and westerners – and that might spell bad news for some of the candidates chasing the presidency in 2008.
The northern states include much of the industrial, financial, legal, political and cultural heartlands of the USA. So it should follow that candidates like Barack Obama, from industrial Illinois, or Mitt Romney, from sophisticated Massachusetts, would do well.
But for some reason, the voting public seem to distrust the country’s elites when it comes to public office, preferring down-home ranchers and – if recent experience is anything to go by – people their pets could outwit.
Nobody’s suggesting that John McCain (from Arizona), Ron Paul (from Texas), Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee (both from Arkansas) are anything but as smart as a button. But they’ve got southern or western zip codes, and accents to match – and that might just be what counts when the nation goes to the polls in the autumn.