On today’s FiveThirtyEight.com map, the set of states projected to go to John McCain is connected. (We exclude Alaska and Hawaii, for obvious reasons.) How likely is it that a presidential candidate’s states will form a single connected block? It turns out that the last person to manage this trick was …. George W. Bush, all the way back in 2004. Before that, though, you have to go back to Ronald Reagan in 1984, who won everything except Minnesota and DC. In fact, every other example I found of a connected electoral component was either a blowout victory (Reagan in 84 and 80, Nixon in 72) or a candidate of geographically limited appeal (George Wallace in 68.) To win a connected set of states in a close election, as GWB did and as McCain might do, is significantly more challenging. I challenge Isabel, who deftly solved the combinatorial-electoral problem posed by FiveThirtyEight last week, to estimate the probability it’ll happen in 2008!
Has there ever been an election where each candidate won a connected set of states? Yep, it’s happened three times in the twentieth century. In fact, there was an election in which three candidates each won a connected set of states. Can you guess the year without looking it up? Hint after the line break.
Hint: one of the three candidates won a single state — Wisconsin.