[Puzzleblogger Kevan Choset, October 11, 2005 at 2:10pm] Trackbacks
What Did They Do?

This puzzle comes to us courtesy of VC friend James Taranto:

Richard Nixon did it three times.

Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all did it twice.

Barry Goldwater, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Bob Dole all did it, but Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern and John Kerry did not.

Abraham Lincoln and both George Bushes failed to do it twice, and William Jennings Bryan failed three times.

What is it?

If you've figured it out, please post some other examples of people who have and have not done it before giving away the actual solution.

Josh P (mail):
Fail to win an election?
10.11.2005 3:34pm
vepxistqaosani (mail) (www):
Ross Perot never did it; neither did George Washington.

But Gerald Ford did it (and isn't that a surprise?).
10.11.2005 3:36pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
I'm not sure that I would entirely agree that George Washington didn't do it. I'd say he partially did it.
10.11.2005 3:43pm
uh clem (mail):
Woodrow Wilson did it twice.

Alfred E. Smith failed to do it.

Herbert Hoover did it once and failed once.

FDR did it four times.

10.11.2005 3:43pm
uh clem (mail):
And 1948 was a trifecta - Thomas Dewey, Strom Thurmond and Harry Truman all did it simultaneously.
10.11.2005 3:50pm
Tired of Blogs:
48's a great example!

George Wallace did it once.
10.11.2005 4:17pm
Jeremy (mail) (www):
Didn't John Bell do it once?
10.11.2005 4:34pm
Ken Willis (mail):
So what is it???????????
10.11.2005 4:35pm
This is an almost pure guess. Edmund Muskie did it because he cried.
10.11.2005 4:47pm
Jeremy (mail) (www):
Ulysses S. Grant did it, but Horace Greeley didn't.

Muskie did not do it, if it's what I think it is.
10.11.2005 4:50pm
Ted Frank (www):
The Mondale confuses me, because I don't see how Reagan could have done it twice, but Mondale once. Unless it has something to do with this (possible spoiler).
10.11.2005 4:56pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
Ted Frank, I'm not sure what you were going for with the odd/even thing. I'm intrigued.
10.11.2005 4:57pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
The Answer:
The "it" is "win the electoral votes of the state where he was born."

Note that in some cases where someone prominently won/lost their "home" state, this was NOT the state where he was born. While John Kerry won Massachusetts, he lost Colorado, where he was born. And while Al Gore famously lost Tennessee, he did get the three electoral votes of Washington, D.C., where he was born. The Bushes were born in, respectively, Massachusetts and Connecticut.
10.11.2005 5:00pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):
Given your definition of "it," how is George Washington disqualified?
10.11.2005 5:40pm
Jeremy (mail) (www):
Well Jason, in what state was George Washington born?
10.11.2005 5:49pm
Well, technically Washington wasn't born in any "state".
10.11.2005 5:50pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
That's why I said I disagreed with the comment saying Washington didn't do it. He partially did it in that he did not get all the electoral votes of Virginia. In fact, not all of Virginia's electoral votes were even cast in 1788.
10.11.2005 5:50pm
Icepick (mail):
Kevan, I figured it out before I saw your comment, but that was fun! And I loved "uh clem"s example. That Carter and Reagan both did it twice was sufficient, but I needed the 1948 example to pound it into my thick skull.

Jason, I think the technicality may be that the Washington was born in a colony, rather than a state.

And speaking of tricky examples of those who did it, I thought I had one with Aaron Burr in 1800, but alas he didn't do it, not even counting colonies as states.

But if you look at it in the way that Washington didn't do it, as there were no states, who the first person who DID do it?
10.11.2005 6:07pm
Icepick (mail):
I think that Martin Van Buren might have been the first to do it. That would be in the 1836 election. Not sure who was the first to do it twice.
10.11.2005 6:16pm
wt (mail) (www):

Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all did it twice.

Paris Hilton?
10.11.2005 6:27pm
John Nettleton (mail):
Thomas Dewey did it, but John McCain did not (the last time he tried to) do it.
10.11.2005 6:58pm
Jason Fliegel (mail):
You know, I was going to point out that while Virginia was not a member of the United States of America at the time of Washington's birth, it was a state. But that was just me being stupid -- it was a colony, not a state. Then I was going to get snarky and point out that technically, Michael Dukakis did not win the electoral votes of the state in which he was born, since he was born in in a Commonwealth, not a state. But that was me being stupid again, since the Constitution use the term "state" as a term of art which includes the four commonwealths that we tend to think of as states.

So instead I'm just going to point out that Adlai Stevenson II failed to do it twice, but his father did it twice.
10.11.2005 7:34pm
Ira B. Matetsky (mail):
What state are you considering to be Nixon's home state?
10.11.2005 8:35pm
Tareeq (www):
Nixon was born in Yorba Linda.
10.11.2005 9:49pm
The Drill SGT:
Pretty clear on Nixon
Born in CA
Raised in CA
College in CA
Married in CA
Congress from CA
Senate from CA
after losing in 60, moved back to CA
Ran for CA Governor
after resigning in 74, moved back to CA
died in CA?
10.11.2005 10:24pm
The Drill SGT:
PS: make that
Bar exam in CA
Died in NJ
buried in CA
10.11.2005 10:28pm
Perhaps I read too literally and closely, but I thought the wording of the puzzle was misleading, which obviously didn't bother any of the preceding posters. Specifically:

Barry Goldwater, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Bob Dole all did it, but Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern and John Kerry did not.

Abraham Lincoln and both George Bushes failed to do it twice, and William Jennings Bryan failed three times.

Stating that Humphrey, McGovern and Kerry did not do something, but Lincoln, the Bushes and Bryan failed to do it, implies that Humphrey McGovern and Kerry never tried. If this was an intentional head fake, it worked with me. I wrongly concluded that "it" had to be something not directly related to running for President. I thought the verbal distinction was a clue, and that I would have been wastng my time if I focused on the obvious, which was that all of them ran for President.
By the way, to be clear, this is not a complaint but an observation.
10.11.2005 10:54pm
mikem (mail):
I had not a clue, so I hereby declare this a lame a** waste of time. So there.
10.12.2005 8:18am
Ira B. Matetsky (mail):
The reason I believe there is legitimate uncertainty as to Nixon's "home state" can be found at:


which indicates that according to the formal electoral college proceedings, the successful presidential candidate in 1968 and 1972 was "Richard M. Nixon, of New York."

10.12.2005 1:59pm
See Kevan's earlier post clarifying that "it" is winning the electoral vote of the state where the candidate was born, not the home state.
10.12.2005 3:19pm
AK (mail):
er... the District of Columbia is not a state. Al Gore doesn't work.
10.13.2005 3:14pm