Free Soil Party 1848

Presidential Campaigns Lost By 15 Presidents

In our final examination of Presidents and their background and experiences for the White House, we will now examine Presidential campaigns lost by Presidents.

A total of 15 Presidents ran unsuccessful campaigns for Presidents as follows:

Thomas Jefferson lost the Presidential Election of 1796 to John Adams, but then won in 1800 and 1804.

Andrew Jackson lost the Presidential Election of 1824 to John Quincy Adams, but then won in 1828 and 1832.

William Henry Harrison lost the Presidential Election Of 1836 to Martin Van Buren, but then won in 1840.

Martin Van Buren received the most votes on the first ballot at the Democratic National Convention in 1844, but failed to win the required two thirds majority, and lost the nomination to James K. Polk. He also ran on the Free Soil Party ticket for President in 1848, and finished behind winner Zachary Taylor and second place finisher Lewis Cass. However, he had won the Presidency earlier in 1836.

James Buchanan competed for the nomination of the Democratic Party in 1848 and 1852, but failed to get the nomination, losing to Lewis Cass and Franklin Pierce, respectively, but then won the Presidency in 1856.

Millard Fillmore ran on the American (Know Nothing) Party ticket for President in 1856, but finished behind winner James Buchanan and loser John C. Fremont. Earlier, he had served as President after the death of Zachary Taylor.

Andrew Johnson competed for the Democratic nomination in 1860, but lost the nomination to Stephen A. Douglas. He later served as President after the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Ulysses S. Grant competed for the Republican nomination in 1880, losing the nomination to James A. Garfield. He had earlier been elected President in 1868 and 1872.

Theodore Roosevelt competed for the Republican nomination in 1912, losing the nomination to President William Howard Taft. He ran in the general election as the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party candidate, having earlier served as President, after succeeding to the officer upon the death of William McKinley, and then being elected in his own right in 1904.

Herbert Hoover competed for the Republican nomination in 1920, but lost the nomination to Warren G Harding, but then won the Presidency in 1928.

Lyndon B. Johnson lost the Democratic nomination to John F. Kennedy in 1960, became his Vice Presidential running mate, and succeeded to the Presidency upon Kennedy’s assassination in 1963, and was elected for a full term in 1964.

Richard Nixon lost the Presidency to John F. Kennedy in 1960, but then won the Presidency in 1968 and 1972.

Ronald Reagan competed for the Republican nomination in 1968 and 1976, losing the nomination to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively, but then won the Presidency in 1980 and 1984.

George H. W. Bush competed for the Republican nomination in 1980, losing the nomination to Ronald Reagan, but became his Vice Presidential running mate, and then Vice President, and then was elected to succeed him as President in the Presidential Election of 1988.

Donald Trump competed for the Reform Party nomination in 2000, but withdrew before Pat Buchanan won that party’s nomination, and later won the Republican nomination and was elected in 2016.

Also, two future Presidents competed for the Vice Presidency, with Franklin D. Roosevelt being the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 1920, losing to Calvin Coolidge; and John F. Kennedy competing for the Vice Presidential nomination of the Democratic Party in 1956, when Presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson opened up the Vice Presidential nomination to be decided by the convention delegates, and Estes Kefauver being selected over Kennedy.

Multiple Losing Presidential Candidacies, And Those Who Lost, Then Won The Presidency

The history of multiple candidacies for the Presidency is an interesting one, with five candidates being nominated more than once and losing each time, and five candidates being nominated more than once, and losing before winning the White House (with unusual circumstances for Grover Cleveland)

Those who ran multiple times and continued to lose are:

Charles Pinckney, Presidential Elections of 1804 and 1808
Henry Clay, Presidential Elections of 1824, 1832, and 1844
William Jennings Bryan, Presidential Elections Of 1896, 1900, and 1908
Thomas E. Dewey, Presidential Elections of 1944 and 1948
Adlai Stevenson, Presidential Elections of 1952 and 1956

Those who ran multiple times and first lost, and then won the Presidency are (with unusual case of Grover Cleveland described below):

Thomas Jefferson, Presidential Elections of 1796, 1800 and 1804
Andrew Jackson, Presidential Elections of 1824, 1828 and 1832
William Henry Harrison, Presidential Elections of 1836 and 1840
Grover Cleveland, Presidential Elections of 1884, 1888, and 1892 (winning in 1884, losing in 1888, winning in 1892)
Richard Nixon, Presidential Elections of 1960, 1968 and 1972

Also, Jackson and Cleveland won the popular vote in the elections they lost in the Electoral College, so both actually won the popular vote three times, the only candidates to do that, other than Franklin D. Roosevelt, who won the popular vote and electoral vote four times, in the Presidential Elections of 1932, 1936, 1940, and 1944!

Additionally, Martin Van Buren ran a third time in 1848 on the Free Soil Party line and lost; and Theodore Roosevelt ran a second time in 1912 on the Progressive Party line and lost.