In John McCain’s lifetime, no primary loser has won N.J. general

If Barack Obama wins New Jersey in November, he will become the first candidate to lose the state's presidential primary and still win electoral votes in the general since 1932. Obama lost the February 5 New Jersey primary to Hillary Clinton by a 54%-44% margin.

In 1932, Alfred E. Smith won the New Jersey Democratic presidential preference primary by a 62%-38% margin over the Governor of New York, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Smith, the former Governor of New York, had been the Democratic nominee for President in 1928. In the general, Roosevelt narrowly won New Jersey, 50%-48%, against incumbent Herbert Hoover.

Since 1932, seven other presidential nominees failed to win New Jersey's popular vote during the primary election process; none of those seven won New Jersey in the general election:

  • Jimmy Carter lost the 1980 New Jersey primary to Ted Kennedy by a 56%-38% margin. Ronald Reagan won the state in the general election.
  • In 1972, only two candidates ran in the preference primary; Shirley Chisholm defeated Terry Sanford by a 2-1 margin in a contest where the party organization cared only about their delegate slates.
  • In the 1968 Democratic primary, Eugene McCarthy received the most number of votes, with the eventual nominee, Hubert Humphrey, running third. Richard Nixon beat Humphrey in the general.
  • Henry Cabot Lodge won 36% of the vote as a write-in candidate in the 1964 GOP preference primary, defeating Barry Goldwater (22%) and Nelson Rockefeller (21%). Lyndon Johnson won the state in the general.
  • New Jersey Democrats backed Estes Kefauver in 1952 and 1956. Adlai Stevenson won the nomination both times, and lost New Jersey twice to Dwight Eisenhower.
  • In 1940, New Jersey Republican preferred Thomas Dewey to Wendell Willkie. Willkie lost New Jersey that year to Roosevelt.

Editor's note: In the old days, New Jersey primary voters cast separate votes for presidential candidates and their delegate slates.

For extreme political junkies: Chisholm, a Congresswoman from Brooklyn, remains the only African American candidate to win more than 50% of the popular vote in a New Jersey primary election.

In John McCain’s lifetime, no primary loser has won N.J. general