California's Presidential Bellwethers

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An interesting new analysis from the Secretary of State's office shows that when it comes to picking the winner of the presidential election, two California counties have gotten it right almost every time since 1912.

The Golden State's bellwethers are Merced County and Ventura County.

In 22 of the last 24 presidential elections, voters in Merced and Ventura have chosen the candidate that went on to win the White House. That's a track record of betting on the right horse 92% of the time. The Secretary's report attributes that success to the fact that the two major parties have almost evenly split registration in those two counties, making them more like the battlegrounds of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

But even bellwethers don't always agree when it comes to being wrong.

Voters in Merced picked the wrong man in 1968 (incorrectly choosing Hubert Humphrey over Richard Nixon) and in 1956 (they picked Adlai Stevenson over Dwight Eisenhower). Voters in Ventura, on the other hand, picked the wrong man in 1976 (they liked Gerald Ford over Jimmy Carter) and way back in 1916 (they thought Charles Evans Hughes would beat Woodrow Wilson).

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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