Home state candidates risk losing primaries

Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) will face a key test on Super Tuesday: Can they win their home state primaries?

Losses in their home states could mean curtains on their presidential campaigns, and polls suggest both candidates could at a minimum be in for close races from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In Massachusetts, a WBUR poll released Friday showed Warren trailing Sanders by 8 points just days before the Super Tuesday contest.  

Klobuchar has the lead in her home state of Minnesota, but Sanders is at her heels.

A recent poll by the Minnesota Public Radio and Star Tribune showed Klobuchar at 29 percent, with Sanders at 23 percent. Warren was the only other candidate to poll above 10 percent.

“She needs to worry about Senator Bernie Sanders,” Kathryn Pearson, associate professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, said of Klobuchar.

Neither Klobuchar nor Warren has suggested they will drop out if they fail to win their home states, but losses would be embarrassing.

When asked at a CNN town hall Wednesday if Minnesota is a “must-win” for her, Klobuchar said “no.”

“I never set litmus tests, but I know I’m going to win Minnesota, so that’s not a factor,” she added.

Asked if they’re worried about losing their home state, the Warren campaign pointed to their surrogates on the ground, which include Massachusetts lawmakers Sen. Ed Markey (D) and Reps. Joe Kennedy III (D) and Ayanna Pressley (D), along with local officials. 

Sanders won Minnesota’s caucuses in a landslide over eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, taking 61.6 percent of the vote. The state has since switched to a primary voting system, which is likely to increase turnout and help the home-state senator.

Warren has an additional home state to worry about on Tuesday, as she was born in Oklahoma. That state has seen few polls, though a Sooner Survey from last week showed former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg at 20 percent, leading Sanders by 6 points and former Vice President Joe Biden by 8.

A News 9-News On 6 poll conducted between Feb. 17-21 showed Biden leading with 21.2 percent, followed by Bloomberg with 19.8 percent. Warren was in single digits in both polls.

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said Warren has some reason to worry in Massachusetts, which border’s Sanders’s own home state of Vermont. He said a large number of those voting on Tuesday are likely to be progressives.

“Klobuchar looks like she’s not quite out of the woods but she’s leading” in polls of Minnesota, he said. “Warren’s situation is vastly different, part of the reason for that is because progressives are a larger share of the Massachusetts vote and Bernie Sanders is the front-runner.”

Sanders will also compete in the primary in his own home state, but the race in Vermont is not expected to be close. The FiveThirtyEight website this week projected his chances of taking his home state at 99 percent.

A poll this month by Braun Research and Vermont Public Radio showed Sanders at 51 percent, followed by former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 13 percent, and the rest of the candidates falling below 10 percent. 

Losing a home state contest can be disastrous for a presidential candidate.

“I think the repercussions for either Klobuchar or Warren not winning their home states are pretty severe,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “It’s hard for me to imagine a situation where either of them lose their states and still win the candidacy. I think losing your home state is a deal breaker if you’re running for president.”

Losing your home state could make it particularly difficult to fundraise post-Super Tuesday, once primaries in larger swing states such as Arizona and Michigan come up, Bannon said. That lack of funds could force a candidate to drop from the primary contest before the Democratic National Convention in July. 

“I’m sure they’d like to, but I think practically it would be impossible for them … to raise enough money to compete,” he said. “If they lose their home state I think they’re forced to suspend their candidacies because I don’t see where they’ll get the money to sustain themselves.”

In 2016, after a series of defeats, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) expressed confidence he would carry his own state ahead of its March 15 primary.

He suffered an embarrassing loss to Donald Trump, finishing 18 points behind the eventual GOP nominee and president. Rubio took second place, but suspended his campaign.

Then Ohio-Gov. John Kasich, however, defeated Trump in his home state — the same day Rubio lost Florida to Trump. He kept campaigning until May 3.

Biden and Bloomberg will face their own home state tests in April, if either are still in the race. Buttigieg would face home state voters in May.

Tags Amy Klobuchar Ayanna Pressley Bernie Sanders Delaware Donald Trump Ed Markey Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Indiana Joe Biden Joe Kennedy Marco Rubio Massachusetts Michael Bloomberg Minnesota New York Oklahoma Pete Buttigieg Vermont
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