Question Day: Same State, Same Party, Big Problem?

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Gpack3 asked: "Is it possible to have two serious presidential candidates from the same party in same state? There are a number of potential pairs on the Republican side in 2016: Cruz/Perry, Walker/Ryan, Rubio/Bush."

Another great question. Thank you!

Here's how to think about this one. Candidates compete over scarce resources: money, of course, but also high-visibility endorsements, campaign staff and volunteers, the help of governing professionals in fashioning a platform (and thereby signaling that they are sufficiently serious) and more.

Until roughly 50 years ago, virtually all party resources were state and local, because that's where parties were based. National parties as such barely existed in any continuous form. I'm not even talking about formal party organizations (such as the Republican National Committee), but also about individual party actors and groups of party actors.

Since almost all resources that could help a candidate were based at the state or local level, the ability to monopolize those resources from one's own state was a big deal, which was also why hailing from a large state was a significant advantage.

Over the past 50 years, however, true national parties have emerged. National party networks are major factors in the internal composition of both parties, reaching down to absorb a lot of state-based political actors as well. Winning a nomination is no longer a case of forming temporary coalitions among different state parties; it's much more a case of winning over a large portion of a national party. (Looked at from the other side, it's about a national party and state parties competing and coordinating over their decisions.)

To contest a nomination successfully, a candidate still needs resources. State-based resources are still important, so a candidate from a small state or a candidate who has to share state resources is still at a disadvantage. But given the major increase in nationally-based resources, it's a lot easier now for two same-state candidates to mount viable campaigns.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Frank Wilkinson at fwilkinson1@bloomberg.net