If Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the major-party candidates for the White House in 2016, it will mark an extremely rare instance in American election history: Two people from the same state going head-to-head for the presidency.
It’s happened just three times prior, and twice it involved New Yorkers; Roosevelts, in fact, in 1904 and 1944. In 1920, the election was a battle of two Ohioans. And technically, two candidates from the same state were on the ballot in 1860, but that was an extraordinary time when four major candidates competed on the eve of the Civil War.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1940 ran against Wendell Willkie, a Republican for a year who was born in Indiana and was involved in Ohio politics as a Democrat before moving to New York in 1929, where he spent the last 15 years of his life.
It’s one of the those odd “quirks” of presidential elections history, said Meena Bose, director of Hofstra University’s Peter S. Kalikow Center for the Study of the American Presidency.
“I’m not sure if there’s a clear reason,” Bose said. “But what you see is that, in some instances when it happened, one party is in a bit of disarray.”
Like this year.
Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination, having won the most primaries and accumulating the most delegates to this point. And most of the Republican establishment is angry about it. Some have begrudgingly thrown support to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who isn’t well-liked in the Senate but who is running second to Trump.
Others have launched a “Stop Trump” movement with the goal of denying him a majority of delegates before the Republican National Convention opens in July, which could potentially throw the nomination wide open. That could give a chance to Ohio Gov. John Kasich (currently running third) or a compromise candidate — some have suggested House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).
Back in 1904, it was the Democrats who were in disarray. Trying to find a candidate to take on President Theodore Roosevelt, a New York Republican, they arrived for their convention in St. Louis after some of the Democrats’ biggest names declined to run.
“The weather, like the hopes of various Democratic candidates, promises to continue unsettled for the next few days,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote as the convention opened.
Newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst wanted the nomination and had several states pledged to him. East Coast states began to coalesce around Alton Parker — not a governor or senator, but New York’s chief judge. Former party standard-bearer William Jennings Bryan opposed Parker and backed Sen. Francis Cockrell of Missouri.
In a rejection of Bryan — and with the help of Tammany Hall Democrats — the party selected Parker, making the presidential race a New York matchup. But Parker was crushed, losing 32 of 45 states.
In 1920, the Democrats were even more deeply divided. President Woodrow Wilson, by some accounts, hoped to be drafted to run for a third term (still legal at the time), but his poor health was just one of the reasons for his lack of support.
With the convention in San Francisco, William Gibbs McAdoo, a Californian and former federal treasury secretary, was a favorite, along with U.S. Attorney General Alexander Mitchell Palmer.
But, in a sign of the turmoil, more than two dozen candidates were nominated — including sports writer Ring Lardner.
In the end, it took 44 ballots before the Democrats settled on Ohio Gov. James Cox — setting up a race against Republican Sen. Warren G. Harding, also of Ohio.
Like Cox, Harding wasn’t the favorite entering his party’s convention but emerged after neither favorite, Illinois Gov. Frank Lowden and Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood (New Hampshire), could solidify a majority. (Some say the political phrase “smoke-filled room” originated in a newspaper report about the backroom haggling that led to Harding’s nomination.)
Harding won in a landslide, garnering 60 percent of the vote.
In 1944, two New Yorkers squared off again as Republicans nominated Gov. Thomas Dewey to run against President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dewey, seen as the head of the GOP moderates, won the Republican nomination over Ohio Gov. John Bricker, who was favored by conservatives. Bricker withdrew his name from consideration on convention eve, when it was clear Dewey would win.
With the nation smack in the middle of World War II, the electorate didn’t want to change leaders and elected FDR to a fourth term in a landslide.
Two candidates from the same state were on the presidential ballot one other time, but it occurred in the extraordinary election of 1860.
With the nation on the brink of what became the Civil War, four major candidates competed, including two Democrats. Abraham Lincoln (Republican) and Stephen Douglas (Northern Democrats) were both from Illinois. The Southern Democrats (who abandoned the party’s convention just before Douglas could sew up the nomination) backed Vice President John C. Breckinridge of Kentucky; and the Constitutional Union Party nominated former Tennessee Sen. John Bell.
Lincoln won less than 40 percent of the national vote. But he won almost every Northern state and wound up with 59 percent of the electoral vote. Illinois rival Douglas was second in the popular vote, last in electoral votes. The Civil War began six months later.