New England has plenty of potential presidents

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It’s been a long time since a New Englander won the presidency, but it’s not for lack of trying.

Not since John F. Kennedy, a Boston Catholic with a family fortune who came out on top in 1960, has anyone who is undeniably from the region held the nation’s highest office.

While both George H.W. Bush and his son George W. Bush were born in New England — the elder’s father was a senator from Connecticut — both made their names in Texas. They lived there as adults and each put his presidential library in the Lone Star State.

So a natural question to ask as the first outlines of the 2020 presidential race begin to appear out of the mist — former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was expected in New Hampshire this weekend to lay the groundwork for his likely run — is whether it’s possible that New England can offer a candidate of its own who might go the distance.

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All six states have possible contenders, a few of them with at least an outside shot at winding up in the Oval Office.

Consider first the New Englander who came closest last year: an independent from Vermont, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, whose unlikely campaign caught fire and almost snatched the Democratic nomination from the all-but-coronated Hillary Clinton. He recently kicked off a national tour to tout Democrats with a rally in Portland.

It’s not clear that Sanders, 75, is interested in another shot at the nation’s top job, but if he opts to run, he would obviously have a lot of support from Day One just by tapping into those who already voted for him in the primaries during 2016.

Another potential contender, also a Democrat, is U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 67, who has wide grassroots appeal as well, including many people who favored Sanders the last go-round.

But don’t rule out Republicans, since there’s a possibility that incumbent Donald Trump won’t seek re-election.

There are at least a couple of New England governors from GOP ranks who could muster support on the national stage: Charlie Baker from Massachusetts, 60, and Lewiston native Paul LePage, 68. And there’s a chance that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, 64, a Maine Republican with a national reputation, might have an interest.

Those five, though, are hardly the only ones who may have what it takes.

In Connecticut, Democratic U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, 43, has the advantage of youth and a growing national presence. The state’s governor, Democrat Dan Malloy, 61, is almost certainly thinking about it, too, however his state’s budget woes may drag him down.

Baker’s predecessor in Massachusetts, Democrat Deval Patrick, 60, is also a possibility.

New Hampshire, too, has a contender: Democratic U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, 59, a two-term governor who moved up the ladder in 2016. It may seem like a quick promotion to run for president next, but a fellow from Illinois, Barack Obama, managed not so long ago to climb from state senator to president in four years.

Whether any of them will actually jump into the fray is, of course, impossible to say with any certainty.

New England has typically had its share of contenders for the presidency, though.

In the past few decades, the Democrats twice nominated Massachusetts men who fell short: former Gov. Michael Dukakis in 1988 and ex-U.S. Sen. John Kerry in 2004. Republicans put their hopes in another former Massachusetts governor in 2012, Mitt Romney.

And plenty of candidates from the region have been in the mix along the way, including three vice presidential choices on tickets that didn’t win: Henry Cabot Lodge of Massachusetts in 1960, Edmund Muskie of Maine in 1968 and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut in 2000.

Among the other politicians from the region who sought a presidential nomination without success were Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island in 2016, Chris Dodd of Connecticut in 2008, Vermont’s Howard Dean in 2004 and Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts in 1992, all of them Democrats.

No list of also-rans would be complete without mentioning Connecticut’s Ralph Nader, who ran on the Green Party ticket and may have tipped the tight 2000 election to Bush.

History is kinder to New England than voters have been in recent decades.

Massachusetts can claim four presidents over the years — Kennedy, Calvin Coolidge, John Adams and John Quincy Adams — while New Hampshire has one, Franklin Pierce.

Coolidge, by the way, is the only person to become president while he was in New England. His father swore him into office in 1923 in Vermont when news reached him that Warren Harding had died in office the previous day.

The only other president with a glimmer of a tie to the region is Chester A. Arthur, born in Vermont but a New Yorker most of his life. Maine and Rhode Island are the only New England states that have never even given birth to a president.

There’s one guy in New England now with an outside shot at the presidency whose name at least carries great promise: U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, 61, a Democrat from Rhode Island. Should he ever grab the brass ring, he would be known as President Whitehouse.

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