Marco Rubio's Home-State Loss Is Almost Historically Unprecedented

Marco Rubio
Marco Rubio
Photo by Gage Skidmore | CC2.0

The Republican primary race this year is rewriting all the rules of conventional wisdom, and perhaps there's been no bigger victim of the historical insanity than Marco Rubio. In fact, Rubio's loss in his home state of Florida leaves him with a dubious historical distinction. 

He's only the third Republican primary candidate to lose his own state despite winning at least one other state, according to Smart Politics. 

Dr. Eric Ostermeier looked into the history books, and Rubio's 18.7 percent Florida loss to Donald Trump is almost unprecedented. 

Ostermeier looked back to the beginning of the primary era, 1912. Oddly, that year, incumbent President William Howard Taft lost his home state of Ohio to Teddy Roosevelt, while Roosevelt, in turn, lost his own home state of New York to Taft. Twelve years later, Hiram Johnson, a senator from California, won another state but not his own. Maryland Sen. Joseph France did the same in 1936. 

Presidential primaries in those times weren't quite what they are now, though, and since then, home-state losses of seriously competitive candidates have become rare. In fact, it has happened only three other times in the past 80 years. 

In 1980, George H.W. Bush narrowly lost his home state of Texas to Ronald Reagan.

Televangelist Pat Robertson and conservative columnist Pat Buchanan ran in '88 and '96, respectively. Both are sons of Virginia, and both lost that state. It should be noted that both were insurgent candidates representing the right wing of their parties. Virginia, incidentally, is where most of the dreaded "D.C. insiders" live. 

Here's what sets Rubio apart from Bush, Robertson, and Buchanan, though: He had previously won a statewide election. Bush had served just four years as a congressman. Robertson and Buchanan had never held elected office. 

So that makes Rubio the first serious Republican presidential candidate in the modern era to have lost his home state in a primary despite having been previously elected to statewide office. 

Rubio, of course, exited the race after the humiliating loss but won Minnesota, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. 


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