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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

We’re not the best presidential bellwethers

There was a time in the mid 20th Century when, as Washington and Idaho went in presidential elections, so went the country.

But voters in the two states have been imperfect bellwethers of the presidential elections before and since. Spokane County voters have been a little better. They’ve voted for the candidate who eventually won the Electoral College count in 25 of the 30 presidential elections since Washington and Idaho became states.

Kootenai County voters picked 22 out of 30, but have the longer winning streak, voting for the presidential winner in every election from 1916 to 1972.

To read the rest of this post, or to see a chart of how the two states, Spokane and Kootenai counties have voted in every presidential election since statehood, click here to go inside the blog.  


As new states for the 1892 election, neither Washington nor Idaho selected Democrat Grover Cleveland to return to the White House after he’d been out of office for a term. Washington and Spokane County went with the sitting president, Republican Benjamin Harrison. Idaho and Kootenai County went with Populist James Weaver, who won four states that year.

The next time around, the nation went for Republican William McKinley; Washington and Idaho went for William Jennings Bryan. Washington and Spokane County would switch to McKinley four years later but Idaho and Kootenai County stuck with Bryan.

Teddy Roosevelt was a hit in both states, and the two adjoining counties in 1904, as was his replacement William Howard Taft in 1908. In fact, Roosevelt was such a hit that he carried Washington, and won both Spokane and Kootenai Counties during his third party run in 1912.

Four years later, the two states and the two counties began a run of picking the eventual winner that would hold up for more than a half century. Many of those races resulted in easy victories for the eventual winner, although 1948 was a close race between Harry Truman and Thomas E. Dewey, and both states and both counties went with Truman. Kootenai County went for John Kennedy in 1960, but Spokane County and the two states went for Richard Nixon, breaking their streaks. All four picked Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter 1976, but all four went for Ronald Reagan in the next two elections.

After Reagan, the differences between the two states became more pronounced, and Washington has always backed the Democratic nominee while Idaho and Kootenai County have always backed the Republican. Spokane County has been more competitive in some of those races, giving the largest share of its votes to Republican nominees most years, but backing Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996.



  US winner Washington Spokane County Idaho Kootenai County
1892 Grover Cleveland (D) Benjamin Harrison ( R ) Harrison James Weaver (Populist) Weaver
1896 William McKinley (R ) William J. Bryan (D) Bryan Bryan Bryan
1900 William McKinley ( R) McKinley McKinley Bryan Bryan
1904 Teddy Roosevelt (R ) T. Roosevelt T. Roosevelt T. Roosevelt T. Roosevelt
1908 Willam Taft (R ) Taft Taft Taft Taft
1912 Woodrow Wilson (D) Roosevelt (Progressive) Roosevelt Wilson Roosevelt
1916 Woodrow Wilson (D) Wilson Wilson Wilson Wilson
1920 Warren Harding ( R) Harding Harding Harding Harding
1924 Calvin Coolidge ( R) Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge Coolidge
1928 Herbert Hoover ( R) Hoover Hoover Hoover Hoover
1932 Franklin Roosevelt (D) F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt
1936 Franklin Roosevelt (D) F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt
1940 Franklin Roosevelt (D) F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt
1944 Franklin Roosevelt (D) F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt F. Roosevelt
1948 Harry Truman (D) Truman Truman Truman Truman
1952 Dwight Eisenhower ( R) Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower
1956 Dwight Eisenhower ( R) Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower Eisenhower
1960 John Kennedy (D) Nixon Nixon Nixon Kennedy
1964 Lyndon Johnson (D) Johnson Johnson Johnson Johnson
1968 Richard Nixon ( R) Humphrey Nixon Nixon Nixon
1972 Richard Nixon ( R) Nixon Nixon Nixon Nixon
1976 Jimmy Carter (D) Gerald Ford Ford Ford Ford
1980 Ronald Reagan ( R) Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan
1984 Ronald Reagan ( R) Reagan Reagan Reagan Reagan
1988 George H.W. Bush ( R) Michael Dukakis Bush Bush Bush
1992 Bill Clinton (D) Clinton Clinton Bush Bush
1996 Bill Clinton (D) Clinton Clinton Bob Dole Bob Dole
2000 George W. Bush ( R)  Al Gore Bush Bush Bush
2004 George W. Bush ( R)  John Kerry Bush Bush Bush
2008 Barack Obama (D) Obama John McCain McCain McCain
2012 ? ? ? ? ?

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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