Barack Obama will not only be the first African American president if he wins on November 4. He will also be the first elected president in 45 years who is neither a Southerner nor a Westerner.
The last elected president who didn’t come from the South or the West was another Democrat, John Fitzgerald Kennedy of Massachusetts. He defeated the Californian Richard Nixon in November 1960 by less than one percent of the popular vote (49.7 percent to 49.5 percent). But he won decisively in the Electoral College, picking up 303 votes to Nixon’s 219.
After Kennedy was shot dead in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, his place was taken by his vice president, the Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson. And every American president elected since then has been either a Southerner or a Westerner.
Republican Gerald Ford from Michigan in the Midwest was never elected president. He succeeded Nixon, having served as his vice president, when Nixon was forced to resign on August 9, 1974, after the Watergate scandal. But Ford lost the subsequent election to the Southern Democrat Jimmy Carter from Georgia in November 1977.
Carter was defeated by the Californian Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980. And Reagan was succeeded by his vice president, George HW Bush, Massachusetts-born but a domiciled Texan, in 1988.
Bush lost to Democrat Bill Clinton of Arkansas, another Southerner, in 1992. But Bush’s son defeated Clinton’s deputy, Al Gore, in November 2000 when Clinton had to step down after two terms in office.
The Sunbelt will continue to have a lock on the White House if Republican John McCain of Arizona wins the election.
Winners and losers
Massachusetts and Minnesota have been the big losers. Both the East Coast candidates who contested — and lost — the presidential election in the last 45 years represented Massachusetts — John Kerry and Michael Dukakis. There have been two candidates from Minnesota, too, and both lost — Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale.
Here’s a brief roundup of US presidential elections since Johnson succeeded Kennedy in November 1963: