Column: 12 counties on presidential ‘losing streak’ since 1996; only 40 nationwide

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 388 views 

Forty counties in the United States have not picked the winner in any presidential election since 1996, and 12 are in Arkansas.

That’s according to a column by Robert Wheel in the University of Virginia Center for Politics’ “Sabato’s Crystal Ball,” a respected news source headed by political scientist Larry Sabato. The piece can be accessed here. 

The 12 Arkansas counties on a four-election losing streak are Bradley, Clark, Clay, Hempstead, Jackson, Lawrence, Lincoln, Little River, Mississippi, Monroe, Poinsett and Randolph.

All went for Mitt Romney in 2012, from a high of Little River’s 67% to a low of Monroe County’s 49.1%. Previously, the four counties picked the loser in each election: Sen. John McCain in 2008; Sen. John Kerry in 2004; and Vice President Al Gore in 2000.

The counties have mirrored Arkansas’ turn from a Democratic stronghold to a red Republican state but made the switch too late to vote for President George Bush in 2000 and 2004. For them to break their losing streak, they would either have to vote for a winning Donald Trump or return to their past and vote for a victorious Hillary Clinton. Wheel wrote that some of the counties closer to the Mississippi River had higher Democratic totals in 2012 than in 2008.

Only nine Arkansas counties voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, according to a spreadsheet that accompanied the article. They also voted for Obama in 2008 but voted for Kerry in 2004, meaning they have a two-election winning streak.

Sixty-six counties are on a two-election losing streak, having voted for the Republican in the last two elections. No Arkansas counties have a three-election losing streak or winning streak.

Of the other 28 counties with losing streaks since 1996, 12 are in Tennessee. Wheel suggested the two neighboring states’ favorite sons, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Gore, kept them Democratic until President Obama’s candidacy flipped them to the Republicans.

The other counties with losing streaks since 1996 were in Kentucky (four), West Virginia (four), Pennsylvania (three), Louisiana (two), Virginia (two) and Georgia (one).

Such long losing streaks are rare in American politics. After the 2000 election, only two counties in the country had voted for the losing candidate two elections in a row: Orange County, Fla., and Charles County, Md., Wheel wrote.

The longest streak is owned by Vigo County, home of Terre Haute, Ind., which has voted for the winning candidate in every election since 1956.