If West is Going Democrats’ Direction, Massachusetts Liberals Pointed the Way

It seems like some political consultants can’t stop bashing the state (and in the case of the Northeast, the region) that launched the American Revolution. In today’s Washington Post it is “revealed” that the West is shifting towards the Democrats (as if the West hasn’t been doing that since ther late 1980s). But some folks just can’t help being snarky:

In the 2004 presidential campaign, Democrats devoted considerable sums and significant amounts of Sen. John F. Kerry’s time to the West, focusing on Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

“There was nothing wrong with that strategy,” said Denver-based Democratic consultant Terry Snyder. “The votes could be there, for the right candidate. But a liberal senator from Massachusetts turned out to be the wrong guy to make the sale in the West.”

Really? Someone should have told actual Western voters that! Indeed, among post-1948 Democratic nominees for president, almost none recieved the level of support Kerry did in 2004. Kerry won 49.9% of the Western popular vote (to Bush’s 48.7%). Except for Lyndon Johnson in the Democratic landslide year on 1964, Kerry’s Western popular vote total is better than all post-1948 Democratic nominees.

The same is true if broken down by state. The following chart shows Kerry’s percentages in a number of Western states:

California (54.3%)
Washington (52.8%)
Oregon (51.4%)
Colorado (47.0%)

Except for LBJ, not one post-1948 Democratic nominee for president got as great a percent of the vote in these states as John Kerry.

Kerry’s 47.9% of the vote in Nevada is second to only John Kennedy’s 51.2% post-1948.

Kerry’s 49.1% of the vote in New Mexico virtually ties Clinton’ 1996 total (49.2%) and is barely behind John Kennedy’s 50.1% in 1960. Indeed, in a state where 3% of the votes cast were thrown out-and Kerry lost by only .7% of the vote-Kerry probably won New Mexico given that most of the thrown out votes came from precincts that were predominantly low-income economically and predominantly Hispanic or Native American ethnically. It is also ironical that the one Western where Kerry was not one of the top Democratic vote getters was the very Democratic western state of Hawaii. But don’t worry, Kerry still beat Bush by 10 points there.

It is not only Kerry who has helped out West. From 1952-1984 Democrats carried Washington state only twice (1964 and 1968) and carried Oregon only once (1964) from 1948-1984. Since Michael Dukakis in 1988, Democrats have always won both of those states. Dukakis’ near victory in California that year-despite a booming economy and the fact it was President Reagan’s homestate-presaged the Democratic run of victories in California since then.

What about Arizona Nick? Arizona is changing but probably not enough so in time for 2008. While I’m not an Arizonan by any stretch of the imagination, (and would appreciate help from any Arizona residents here) I’ll go out on a limb here and say if McCain in the 2008 nominee, Arizona is out of reach. Sure Clinton won Arizona in 1996 (the first Democrat to do so since 1948) . But Clinton only won 45.5% of the vote in Arizona that year, just 1.2% more of the vote than Kerry won-and was 4 points less than what LBJ won in 1964 when Arizona was the only non-South state he lost.

Still, the fact that Barry Goldwater’s homestate can’t be totally written off-and that a “Massachusetts liberal” outdid nearly all post-WWII Democratic nominees in the West- leads to an interesting conclusion. If Dems should follow Horace Greely’s advice to “Go West,” they should do so by following the trails blazed by Northeasterners.

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About Nick

Teacher of Social Studies. Born in the 1970s. History major, music minor. Big Baseball fan. Economic progressive.
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11 Responses to If West is Going Democrats’ Direction, Massachusetts Liberals Pointed the Way

  1. Connie says:

    Thanks for setting the record straight, Nick. While I’m now living in Reno, I never forget my Massachusetts roots and the powerful liberal progressive stance that implies. Liberals do take a lot of hits by the media, especially N.E. liberals, but standing for positive change outweighs the slams that keep coming. And thanks for telling it like it truly is — John Kerry was and is the right democrat to take the liberal message to the rest of the country. And the votes as you’ve shown proved that.

  2. Indie Liberal says:

    Interesting findings Nick. 🙂 With Obama thinking about (heard he has already decided) entering the race, if, Kerry runs again, he is going to have to find a way to win back those who are still bitter about 2004 and the concession, and win over the AA vote (which is rumored to go to Obama, Hillary, or Edwards) :shrug:

    I have come to a conclusion that all the “people” that hope that he won’t run again or stay out fear that he will add more the debate, make the same mistakes over again, or “abandon” them like the concession speech, cause they gave “time and effort” to the 2004 run.

    I don’t know how this all plays in the real world, but I am thinking that’s why we are seeing all the attacks on Kerry from the media, fellow Democrats, and the lefty blogsphere (i.e. Kos).

  3. Goldwater’s state is not in play for Kerry or anyone else… Barry Goldwater has it locked up himself: Exhume Goldwater ’08!

  4. Nick says:


    Is it true that Obama is going to run? I hope not. I do like the guy, but I just don’t think he’s ready for prime time.

    Furthermore, I don’t know if he believes it, but the idea of a “united America” that Obama talks about and getting past red and blue are nice sounding platitudes, but just not very realistic in my view-especially givent that Democratic gains in the House, Senate and governorships were concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest. Will Obama waste precious time and resources trying to unite America by campaigning in no hope states?

  5. Indie Liberal says:


    There are signs pointing to an Obama run. Word has it he’ll announce on Monday, MLK Day.



    I hear the DC inner circles like him and is pushing him to run.

  6. BlueWashington says:

    Obama – nice guy, but truly unseasoned in a season that cries for experience.

    I’ve heard others described Obama as the second coming of JKF, that he has just as much experience as JFK when he ran for president, which of course is not true. Besides his military experience, JFK also had 14 years in Congress grappling with the national and international problems of his day.

    Intuition is great, and I think Obama has it, BUT GIVE ME EXPERIENCE!!


    You know, Indie Liberal, I suspect JK will have problems with the AA vote (just because of who else is out there) and those who were upset with the concession speech, but if you think about it, these groups were not early JK supports to begin with – African Americans in Iowa and New Hampshire? I suspect he didn’t make a direct play for them right away. And those upset with the speech I think came mostly from the Deaniac ranks; people who were hangers on anyway. JK will have to reintroduce himself to the folks on Iowa and NH – it won’t be easy, but I think it’s doable.
    South Carolina will be interesting. Edwards won it last time; but I suspect it will be a battle between Obama and Edwards – it should be interesting.

    Hillary – Please!!! She is total beltway candidate; oh yeah, I guess New York likes her.

  7. Indie Liberal says:


    That’s what I am saying (and pen has too). That If Kerry does run, he is going to have to take his record straight to the AA community and take Momma T with him.

    There are those that do not want him to stay out of contention for 08 because they feel that he didn’t care or do anything in 04 and that “he had his chance” when he didn’t (though the facts prove he did in a way) respond to the Swiftie lies.

    Hillary (with Bill’s record), Obama (crossover appeal), and Edwards (he’s speaking in Harlem on MLK Day, and Lower Ninth Ward) have already began courting the minortity votes. If the PR is not careful, they (Hill, Edwards, Obama) are going to try to use the AA vote to their advantage, and continue to use the concession against him.

  8. Indie Liberal says:

    Meant to say “folks that want him to stay out of contention”

  9. Good post Nick. You do make some valid points here. Besides, nice to see something that is not bashing the south. 😉

    As far as I am concerned with Obama, the man needs to stay in school so to speak. I liken him to a great football player in high school that gets media attention when confronted by the NFL to go directly to the pros.

    And Hillary? Don’t make me go there and have to edit myself!!!

    Edwards? See above comment on Obama!

    John Kerry is clearly the right choice for this nation. It’s just that simple. JK has the leadership skills and the experience to lead us out of the rut that we have been in for 20 years with either a Clinton or a Bush in office. Enough is enough! Time to end those political dynasties. It’s time for a change, but lets make it a change for the better.

  10. Nick says:


    Thanks for the feedback. Excellent metaphor about Obama! I’ve gotta remember that one when talking about Obama. You’d be shocked by some of the comments I hear inside the Beltway. My personal favorite is the pro-Obama (or Edwards) line that their lack of a resume is an advantage-less of a record for opponents to pick apart in a campaign! I wish I could say I’m joking, but I’m not.

    Less of a record to pick apart in a campaign, huh? Now just say Edwards or Obama actually win. Do we really want a guy with a lack of resume in a GOVERNING position?

  11. Exactly Nick! Hell, if someone I know is a really nice guy and does a great job at trash collection or gardening, I like him and all, but that in no ways means that I want him for my sheriff! Likewise, I have been in the Marines and was a licensed Captain through the Coast Guard. I have been in leadership positions. Does that mean that I should be nominated as National Security Advisor? HELL NO!