Jim O’Sullivan | Massachusetts nominees have a nasty losing streak

There’s been a short Greek and now a lean Mormon, and a guy whose ancestral tree was knotty enough to become a metaphor for his public image.

For whatever reason, politicians from Massachusetts tend to run for president, tend to do well in the primaries, and then tend to get broomed unceremoniously into an elite historical dustbin.

Mitt Romney, who charmed the Massachusetts electorate enough to pose the late Edward Kennedy’s only respectable opposition in a 47-year Senate career and again eight years later to win the commonwealth’s governorship, got his clock pretty well cleaned by President Obama last week. Sen. John Kerry, who shared with Romney a privileged upbringing and a proclivity for granting opponents wide-open shots on policy adjustments, lost narrowly to President George W. Bush. And former Gov. Michael Dukakis went down handily to President George H.W. Bush after being lampooned for donning a helmet to ride in a tank, appearing comically martial for a Brookline progressive.

Since John F. Kennedy was elected in 1960, 19 men have been nominated for president, hailing from 12 states. Only Texas has produced as many presidential nominees as Massachusetts during that stretch, and those three — Lyndon B. Johnson, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush — all won. In the years since 1984, only one candidate from outside Massachusetts has gained the Democratic Party’s nod and lost the presidency: Al Gore, who won the popular vote.

Which poses a two-fold question: Allowing for the vagaries of individual campaigns, why do Massachusetts pols keep obtaining presidential nominations and then losing?


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