As Maine went? Map shows how the state lost its place as a presidential predictor

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This map is making the rounds on the discussion board site Reddit — the credits can be found in the bottom right corner — and shows how frequently each state voted for the eventual winners in the presidential elections over the last century.

As you can see, despite the old political adage “As Maine goes, so goes the nation,” our state has over the past 100 years been among the those least likely to foreshadow how the larger country will vote.

In fact, over the five elections from 1932 through 1948, Maine voters sided with the eventual loser every single time.

Only Mississippi, which picked the winner only about half the time since the 1916 election, fell into a lower percentage bracket than Maine.

Obviously, the candidate who wins the race inherently wins a lot of the individual states to do so. Unless every general election included third, fourth or fifth party candidates — instead of what’s become the standard two — it’d be almost mathematically impossible for a lot of states to have low accuracy percentages on a map like this.

Former U.S. House Speaker and presidential candidate James G. Blaine. (Public domain)

Former U.S. House Speaker and presidential candidate James G. Blaine. (Public domain)

Even considering that, though, Ohio, Nevada and New Mexico have been remarkably accurate predictors of who will take the White House.

But if Maine’s only so-so at picking the winners in the presidential elections, where does that “As Maine goes…” phrase come from?

Well, the map above only shows the last century. In Maine’s first century-plus as a state, it was a true presidential bellwether.

From 1820, when Maine split off from Massachusetts, through 1928, the state picked the presidential winner 22 times and sided with the eventual loser only six. And one of those six was Maine resident James G. Blaine — you can’t blame our voters for supporting the local guy, for better or for worse.

According to the Associated Press, up until 1957 Maine held its statewide and congressional elections in September — rather than the November Election Days used in most other states and now common nationwide — because of the weather and early harvests.

In 1840, Maine voters elected a Whig Party candidate as governor two months before the rest of the country would elect its first Whig — William Henry Harrison — as president, making the Pine Tree State appear prescient.

By the late 1800s — after a stretch in which Maine voters sided with the presidential winners six straight times, from 1860-1880 — national parties were reportedly putting disproportionate resources toward winning September state and congressional races in Maine in order to claim symbolic victories and momentum leading into the nationwide November elections.

Also, as there were fewer states at the time, Maine’s share of the country’s population — and therefore, its value in the presidential race in terms of electoral college votes — was greater. Maine, which now has four electoral college votes, had 10 in the 1830s and early 1840s, and still held on to six all the way up through the 1920s

But the attention from national groups trying to gain a head start on the presidency wouldn’t last.

In 1936, Maine voters threw their weight behind Republican Alf Landon, who famously claimed only two states and lost by the most lopsided margin in history, squashing what lingering correlation remained between how Mainers voted and how the rest of the country would.

From left to right, presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield. These candidates won Maine, and the rest of the country, during the elections from 1860-1880.

From left to right, presidents Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes and James Garfield. These candidates won Maine, and the rest of the country, during the elections from 1860-1880.