Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Carter's Legacy: Why Not Me?

Numerous media outlets have already published Jimmy Carter's obituary (even though he is still alive, albeit in hospice care at home). All of them talk about his career as a peanut farmer, naval officer, governor, president, and his post-presidential work. They talk about his lasting achievements as president, including the deregulation of the airline industry and the Camp David Accords. But something nearly all of them miss is the model he set for future POTUS wannabes.

Look at the guys who came before Carter. Gerald Ford was vice president when he took over after Richard Nixon resigned. Nixon himself had been senator and vice president before winning the White House. Lyndon Johnson was vice president and before that Senate Majority Leader when John Kennedy was assassinated. Kennedy was a U.S. senator when he was elected president. Dwight Eisenhower was a five-star general and war hero when he was elected president. Most previous presidents held some high civilian office, like vice president, senator, or high-profile governor of a powerful state, or at least were a general who had won a war. There were some exceptions (like one-term congressman Abraham Lincoln) but not so many in the past century.

Carter was an exception. When he ran for president, nobody outside of Georgia had ever heard of him. Pundits mocked his candidacy as absurd and pointless. But he won. Now numerous candidates in both parties look back at Carter and think: "Why not me?" That is his biggest legacy: a virtually unknown small-state governor who didn't do anything noteworthy ran for president and won, and now all manner of people who are the longest of long shots think they can be the next Carter.

Interestingly enough, many of the people who would normally be strong candidates—sitting senators—are not running in 2024. Republican Sens. Tom Cotton (AR), Ted Cruz (TX), Joni Ernst (IA), Josh Hawley (MO), Rand Paul (KY), Mitt Romney (UT), and Rick Scott (FL) have already ruled out runs. The only senator who might run is Tim Scott (R-SC), but like Carter he is the longest of long shots. And unlike Nikki Haley, who is almost certainly running for veep on a DeSantis ticket, he not only won't get the GOP presidential nomination, he also won't get the vice presidential nomination. We don't see the point of a run.

As an aside, just in case you think the electoral map is frozen and nothing ever changes, except who wins Arizona and Georgia by ½ a percent, on the left below is the map 1976 Electoral College map that got Carter elected. To the right of it is the 2020 map.

1976 and 2020 electoral college maps, the 1976
map is largely red west of the Mississippi except for Texas, half blue and half red in the Midwest and New England, blue everywhere else. The 2020 map is blue 
in New England, the upper Mid-Atlantic coast, the upper Midwest, Georgia, the Pacfic coast and much of the Southwest and is red everywhere else.

Compare the 1976 map with the 2020 map. Eleven states (including D.C.) stayed blue (D.C., Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin). Twelve states stayed red (Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming). But an astounding 28 states flipped (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and West Virginia).

In 1976, the Democrats won five states west of the Mississippi (Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas). In 2020, of these they won only Minnesota, but they picked up seven other states in the West. And the South was solid for the Democrats in 1976, except for Virginia. That flipped completely in 2020, except for Carter's home state of Georgia. Stuff changes. (V)

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