Home / Robert Farley / Romney, Massachusetts, and the Passion of Al Gore

Romney, Massachusetts, and the Passion of Al Gore


A couple weeks ago I wandered into a ridiculous Facebook debate about the 2000 Gore campaign, with the central hypothesis of the thread running “Al Gore lost his own state, therefore Nader voters in Florida were wholly irrelevant to the electoral outcome.” This, I will grant, is a stupid argument to become involved in. Nevertheless, I think that XKCD capably deals with the sort of logic present in this argument; broad historical statements about candidate performance (successful candidates tend to win their home states) should yield to analysis of local temporal and geographic factors. Al Gore in 2000 outperformed (relative to the national popular vote) the Clinton-Gore ’96 ticket in Tennessee, and wildly outperformed the ’04 Kerry and ’08 Obama tickets. This isn’t surprising, given that Tennessee was trending hard right from at least the mid-90s on, and has moved safely into the GOP column for the foreseeable future. A two point swing in the national popular vote would likely have resulted in a substantial Gore electoral college victory without nudging Tennessee a bit.

I would also note that if Mitt Romney loses Massachusetts by as much as Al Gore lost Tennessee, he’ll win about 450 electoral votes.

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  • Jim

    Of all the pundit memes that need to go away, the one that might infuriate me most is the idea that Al Gore lost the election in any way other than by our BCS-esque voting system.

    When someone like Willie Geist says “When Al Gore got up during the debate and approached Bush, he lost the election,” I want to scream. He won more votes than the guy.

    • UserGoogol

      Well, he did in fact lose the election. He won the popular vote, but the “election” is the whole process. And if things had gone slightly better for him in Florida, then he would have won, so in principle all sorts of things he did “lost him the election.” The real problem is that (1) in situations of causal determination, it’s hard to point to any particular factor as “causing” Gore to lose (2) a lot of the stupid stuff pundits say might not have even lost Gore the handful of votes in Florida that separated him from winning. Who the fuck cares about shit like that?

      • rea

        in situations of causal determination, it’s hard to point to any particular factor as “causing” Gore to lose

        No. There were a number of factors that caused Gore to lose. Events usually have more than one cause.

        • James E Powell

          Wrong. Events only have one cause. And we get to say what it is.


          The Village

      • mark f

        While this may all be true, it seems to miss Jim’s point.

  • Warren Terra

    Oh, gee, maybe we can have another of those 500 comment threads debating the relative merits of Ralph Nader.

    • Malaclypse

      It has been almost a week…

    • Someone really needs to make the “Nader, bully pulpit, and Paterno” post.

      I’d love to see a >1000 comment post!

      • Malaclypse

        To break a thousand, you need to work BMI into it.

      • NonyNony

        Since I see a ton of Romney ads on this site constantly, I think it would be a good idea to have as many giant spitwad threads leading up to the election as possible.

        I don’t know how the ad stream for this site works, but the idea of giant 1000+ comment fights about Nader in Florida slowly trickling money from Romney’s bank account to help pay for maintenance on this site makes me smile a bit.

        • Cody

          Every time I see a Romney ad I really want to click. I’m unsure if clicking sends more revenue LGM’s way though. If it does, I’m down for taking Romney’s money.

      • firefall

        wiht battleships

  • John

    Is it wrong that I’m nit-picking a few of the XKCD electoral precedent examples?

    • Quercus

      I don’t know if it’s wrong, but you’re not the only one doing it.

  • Scott Lemieux

    Nononononono, the fact that Romney will lose Massachusetts means that Romney is running the worst campaign there absolutely ever has been and will probably lose 40 states.

    The other key here is that it’s perfectly logical to argue that Al Gore 1)should have run to the hard left and 2)should have done more to appeal to conservative southern Democrats, including a home state that is essentially indistinguishable from Alabama.

    • NonyNony

      The other key here is that it’s perfectly logical to argue that Al Gore 1)should have run to the hard left and 2)should have done more to appeal to conservative southern Democrats, including a home state that is essentially indistinguishable from Alabama.

      You’re also missing out that the people who make this argument really do believe that the conservative majority in Tennessee would actually be open to Socialism if it were presented in a full-throated, rabble-rousing manner – that the people there are swayable by economic arguments from the Left.

      If that’s your premise, then the idea that Gore should have run to the Left on economic issues while also appealing to the median Tennessee voter is an idea that might work.

      Of course if that’s your premise, it probably means that you probably haven’t actually ever been to Tennessee and are mistaking “what I wish people in this country were like” with “what people in this country are actually like”.

    • John

      Indistinguishable from Alabama seems strong. Tennessee is still considerably less Republican than Alabama, and this was even more true in 2000 than now.

      Moreover, the demographics of the two states are fairly different, which means the nature of their bases is different. Alabama is 65% white and 29% African-American. In 2008, Whites voted 88% for McCain, 10% for Obama, according to the exit polls.

      Tennessee, on the other hand, is 84% White and 12% African-American. Whites voted 63% for McCain and 34% for Obama.

      That seems like a huge difference to me. In Mississippi and Alabama, there are a lot more Black people than in Tennessee, but the Democratic Party basically consists, at the presidential level, at least, of black people only. In Tennessee, the Democratic Party remains a biracial coalition. And this was more true in 2000 than it is now.

      • spencer

        I was going to question that as well, but you did a better job than I would have. So never mind.

    • mark f

      It would be like arguing that Romney could compete in Massachusetts if only he would talk more about the light bulb ban.

      Come to think of it, what’s the going rate for op-ed columns? I might be able to come up 800 words The Daily Caller would be interested in.

  • Manju

    Al Gore should’ve run hard left. During the 2000 presidential election, Pat Buchanan did…on Israel, protectionism, and globalization. The record is quite clear.

    Liberal Palm Beach County Jews rewarded him with 3,407 votes.

  • The Dark Avenger

    Liberal Palm Beach County Jews rewarded him with 3,407 votes.

    Uh, no, Manju, this was a technical failure due to the design of the ballot they were given to use.:

    At that point I started the voting process. I wanted to vote for
    Gore/Lieberman. I searched for the Gore “butterfly hole” and could not find it!! The arrows to the right of the candidate’s name,
    pointing to the proper “butterfly hole” did not align properly !! I struggled to find the appropriate place for my vote, and tried to
    figure out which one it was by looking at the Bush “hole” and the others on the page. By a process of elimination, I chose the hole I
    thought was for Gore and Lieberman. I took 3-4 minutes to do this. It made me feel rather stupid, so I hid my stupidity, figuring that I
    voted my choice. I went on to all the other candidates on the next pages of the “butterfly” and the alignments to the proper holes were
    arranged neatly and to perfection, and I was out of the little cubicle (which was not very private in the least!), and I took out my “ballot from the “butterfly” and placed it in the ballot box upon leaving.

    I apologize in advance for stooping to use empirical evidence and not using DW Nominate and/or quoting Larry Bartels in arriving at my conclusion to the conundrum that you have brought up.

    • John

      I think Manju was making a funny?

    • spencer

      Pretty sure it was a joke.

      Manju is actually pretty funny, and seems (to me, anyway) to be joking more often than not.

      • Manju

        I seriously feel like that comedienne who kept playing to an audience who was afraid to laugh.

        • Rhino

          I am working on a theory that manju is malaclypse.


          • Malaclypse

            While I may perhaps have been ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd, and maybe even certain Tolkien characters, and maybe Louis Antoine Léon de Saint-Just, and perhaps certain Norse dieties, and possibly even Gary Ruppert, I assure you I have never been Manju.

            • Manju

              There is only one Manju and Malaclypse is his Schlesinger.

              • Malaclypse

                See? I can reference people and periods not the 1960s. Manju, not so much.

                • Manju

                  Wait! I meant Laura.

  • Uncle Ebeneezer

    That KXCD cartoon pretty much summarizes every Howard Fineman appearance on Hardball, ever. Brilliant.

    • DocAmazing

      It’s a bit like “As goes [YOUR STATE HERE!], so goes the nation.”

  • wengler

    I think that it should be further noted that despite losing the election, Bush went forward with his hard right agenda that would eventually leave over a million people dead and the economy in shambles.

    The Republican Party should’ve ceased to exist as a credible entity after 2008. Instead they re-branded and ended up with a huge victory two years later.

  • Anonymous

    But, Gore DID win his home state – yes. DC. Which he’d spent more time than in TH.

    I’m far too lazy to figure out if could’ve brought a win if it had EVs.

    • DC does have 3 EVs granted by the 23rd amendment.

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