Trump Latest in Short List of Presidents Rejected at Home

Donald Trump managed to do something on Election Day that had only happened three times before in U.S. history: He won the presidency while losing his home state. 

Trump trailed fellow New Yorker Hillary Clinton by more than 1.5 million votes in the contest for the Empire State’s 29 electoral votes. Clinton—who is comfortably ahead in the national popular vote—took her adopted home state with 58 percent of the vote. Despite losing New York, the Republican businessman won an electoral college victory nationally. 

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The last time this happened was in 1968, when Republican Richard M. Nixon lost New York to Democrat Hubert H. Humphrey and narrowly won the presidency. But Nixon's case hardly counts. While Nixon was a legal resident of New York at the time, he was as Californian as the Beach Boys. Nixon was born and raised in California, served the state in the House and Senate, and ran unsuccessfully for governor just six years earlier. Nixon did carry California in 1968. 

Other than the 1968 example, it’s been exactly a century since a winning candidate lost his home state. 

In 1916, incumbent Democrat Woodrow Wilson won re-election despite losing his home state of New Jersey and its 14 electoral votes to Republican Charles E. Hughes. While Wilson had previously served as New Jersey's governor and the president of Princeton University, he was born in Virginia—which he carried in the 1916 contest. 

Before 1916, you have to go back another 72 years to find another winner who lost back home. In 1844,  Democrat James K. Polk was elected president despite losing his home state of Tennessee. It was not the first time that residents of his state had rejected him. After a single term as governor from 1839–1841, he was twice defeated in bids for the office. 

Like Trump, Polk was elected on a platform of doing something about the Mexican border. But instead of building a border wall, Polk ended up redrawing the border. He sent in the Army and settled the Mexican-American War by annexing territory that makes up the current states of California, Nevada, New Mexico, most of Arizona and Colorado, and parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Wyoming. 

There almost was another case of a home state loser winning the presidency not so long ago. A switch of fewer than 600 Florida votes in 2000 would have handed the presidency to Democrat Al Gore—who lost back home in Tennessee. Like Clinton this year, Gore won the popular vote nationwide, only to lose the electoral college.