Washington (CNN) -- President James K. Polk holds a distinction among those who have sought the nation's top job: He's the only major candidate to win the White House despite losing the vote in the state where he was born and the state where he lived.
It happened in 1844, and now 168 years later, Republican nominee Mitt Romney may need to duplicate Polk's feat if he wants to defeat President Barack Obama in Tuesday's election.
According to polls, Romney faces the prospect of losing both the state of his birth, Michigan, and the state where he lives and served as governor, Massachusetts.
Obama holds a double digit lead in Massachusetts, but the race is closer in Michigan, with the polls tightening, though the president remains in front.
Under the Electoral College system, each state is worth a certain number of electoral votes based on population. There are a total of 538 electoral votes available, meaning 270 are required to win.
Romney has many plausible paths to victory on Tuesday without winning Michigan or Massachusetts.
Yet the prospect that he might lose either or both raises the question of how many other presidential candidates in U.S. history also were unable to win their birth or home states?
Winners who overcame the loss of a state with strong personal ties included Abraham Lincoln, Richard Nixon and both George H.W. Bush and his son, George W. Bush.
Honest Abe won his home state of Illinois, but lost his birth state of Kentucky in both of his presidential runs in 1860 and 1864. In 1968, Nixon won his birth state of California, where he also ran unsuccessfully as governor, but lost his home state of New York, where he had been working as a lawyer for a few years.
Both of the Bushes won the state where they lived -- Texas -- in their three successful presidential campaigns, but lost their birth states -- Massachusetts for the father and Connecticut for the son.
Many more candidates who lost either their birth or home states also lost the election.
Al Gore would have defeated George W. Bush in 2000 if the Democratic vice president carried his home state of Tennessee. Democratic President Grover Cleveland won a larger share of the popular vote than Benjamin Harrison in 1888, but he lost his home state of New York and the electoral vote to his Republican foe.
Here's a look at some of the presidential candidates who lost their home or birth states:
1844 -- Democrat James K. Polk lost both his birth state of North Carolina and home state of Tennessee, but still managed to defeat Henry Clay.
1860 -- Republican Abraham Lincoln lost his birth state of Kentucky, but won his home state of Illinois in defeating Stephen Douglas. The same dynamic occurred four years later when Lincoln defeated George McCLellan.
1888 -- Incumbent Democratic President Grover Cleveland won his birth state of New Jersey, but lost his home state of New York in falling to Benjamin Harrison. In this race, Cleveland won a slightly larger share of the popular vote than Harrison, but lost in the Electoral College.
1916 -- Incumbent Democratic President Woodrow Wilson won his birth state of Virginia, but lost his home state of New Jersey in defeating Charles Evans Hughes.
1932 -- Republican President Herbert Hoover lost his birth state of Iowa in falling to Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt. As the incumbent and a former cabinet secretary, Hoover had been living in Washington for years before the election, and he also lost the District vote.
1944 -- Republican Thomas Dewey lost both his birth state of Michigan and his home state of New York, where he was governor, in falling to incumbent President Franklin Roosevelt.
1952 -- Democrat Adlai Stevenson lost his birth state of California and his home state of Illinois, where he was governor, in falling to Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower. The same thing happened four years later, when the incumbent President Eisenhower also won California and Illinois in defeating Stevenson.
1968 -- Former Republican Vice President Richard Nixon won his birth state of California, but lost his home state of New York in defeating Democrat Hubert Humphrey, who lost his birth state of South Dakota, but won his home state of Minnesota, which he had represented in the U.S. Senate.
1972 - Democratic Sen. George McGovern lost South Dakota, both his birth and home state, in getting swamped by incumbent President Nixon.
1992 - Incumbent President George H.W. Bush lost his birth state of Massachusetts, but won his home state of Texas in falling to Democratic Gov. Bill Clinton.
2000 -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush won his home state, but lost his birth state of Connecticut in defeating Democratic Vice President Al Gore, who won his birthplace of Washington, D.C., but lost his home state of Tennessee, which he had represented in the U.S. Senate.
2004 -- Incumbent President George W. Bush again won his home state of Texas, but lost his birth state of Connecticut in defeating Democrat John Kerry, who lost his birth state of Colorado, but won his home state of Massachusetts, which he represented in the U.S. Senate.
CNN's Keating Holland contributed to this report.