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How Much Do You Know About Losing Vice Presidential Candidates?

Updated on August 19, 2017
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.

Losing V.P.s

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Whatever happened to whatshisname?

Who remembers presidential candidates who didn’t win? How far back can you remember?

Nixon lost to Kennedy. Who was Nixon’s running mate in that campaign? Henry Cabot Lodge. Who?

I’ll wager that would be most folk’s response to the question for any losing side of an election for president. It’s hard enough to remember past winners, even past candidates who lost at the top of the ticket. But the losing running mate? What names stand the test of time?

The first campaign in America for our executive office was won by the ticket of George Washington and John Adams. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr lost that one, but Jefferson went on to win after Washington served two terms and Adams served one. Adams won with Jefferson as his Vice President, then they reversed the top of the ticket and Jefferson won with Adams as V.P. Jefferson won a second term and picked up Adams’ losing VP, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, who served in that position for two terms, one with Jefferson and one with his successor James Madison. Madison’s second term replaced Pinckney with De Witt Clinton. It appears in the early days of the republic one became Vice President in a process not unlike musical chairs.

In fact, the elections of 1789, 1792, 1796, and 1800 were decided by the presidential candidate who received the second most Electoral College votes being declared the vice president. Makes you wonder why someone vying for the Oval Office (not that there was one in those days) would even bother to name a running mate? Can you imagine what the 24-hour news cycle would do with a president from one party and a vice from another? The election of 1804 was the first one in which the electors voted for president and vice president on separate ballots.

The first losing vice presidential candidate, Aaron Burr in 1796, is one of the most memorable for a reason unique to history, though it is a scenario many in politics would like to put into practice quite often. He’s known for calling out a political enemy for a duel. The other guy, his nemesis going all the way back to their fathers, Alexander Hamilton, lost.

The prospects for a losing vice presidential pick are so discouraging; you have to wonder how they get anyone to take the bait. They say power is the ultimate aphrodisiac. That must be the only thing that works. Still, when the proposal (or proposition) was made to Daniel Webster in 1839, he probably said it best. “I do not propose to be buried until I am dead.”

William Jennings Bryan and Adlai E. Stevenson are a well-known losing ticket in 1900 for inventing the national campaign tour. Before them, candidates sought the office of the presidency while staying in their home, usually in Washington.

Only one VP on a losing ticket later became President. Franklin Delanor Roosevelt, who was James Cox's vice presidential choice in 1920, went on to be elected president — 12 years later.

George McGovern in 1972 named two V.P. candidates for his campaign when Thomas Eagleton left the ticket after being exposed for having received hospitalized treatment for depression. Sargent Shriver joined the ticket in time to be on the losing side.

Two losing vice presidential nominees went on to later become his party's nominee at the top of the ticket. The first: Bob Dole was Gerald Ford's running mate in 1976. Dole did not become the Republican presidential nominee until his third try, when he lost to Bill Clinton in 1996. The second was Walter Mondale who was both the winning V.P. on the ticket with Jimmy Carter in 1976 and the losing V.P. candidate on the ticket with Carter in 1980. He was his party's presidential nominee in 1984 and selected Geraldine Ferraro, a congresswoman from New York, to be the first female vice presidential nominee for a major party. For his trailblazing efforts, he lost 49 states to re-elect Ronald Reagan.

John McCain chose then Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate for the 2008 election. She found it to be such a choice opportunity, a state governship paled in comparison. In spite of losing the election for the nation's second highest office, she went on to resign her day job. Good luck to the next female who runs for CEO of Alaska.

A footnote to history is a fitting label for the men - and two women - who have thrown their hats into the ring and come out losers. The way our political realities work in America, that is one label it is very hard to live down.

The exception to the "losers rule" may be Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) who ran as V.P. on Mitt Romney's ticket in 2012. Not only did he return to the U.S. House after the defeat, but he is about the be voted in as its next Speaker. It appears, at this date, that he welds enough power to make retaining time with his family as an absolute before accepting the nomination. We'll see.

Sincere thanks to several hubbers who served as fact checkers for this hub. That effort is always appreciated.




But times change:

Sarah Palin at her Best

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    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      21 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks for the comments and the angels. I miss mine too.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 

      21 months ago from sunny Florida

      Interesting...most of which I had forgotten...thanks for the refresher...my Daddy kept me filled in on all such goings on while he was living...I miss that...

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      23 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      You have 10 years on me. I'd have never guessed it!

    • peoplepower73 profile image

      Mike Russo 

      23 months ago from Placentia California

      Kathleen: That's how old I was when I first joined Hub Pages four years ago. I love fun facts.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      23 months ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      peoplepower73: What's the 73 for? I've got a whole slew of Fun Facts to Know and Tell if you're interested. Thanks.

    • peoplepower73 profile image

      Mike Russo 

      23 months ago from Placentia California

      Kathleen: What a great idea for a hub and it is evergreen as well. Very interesting and informative. It was very refreshing after being in these political forums.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      fpher48 I have a couple like this: Fun Facts o Know and Tell. It's fun research. Glad you liked it.

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 

      3 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I love refresher courses in all things "History"!! What a great idea for a hub, Kathleen.

      Sarah...oh, Sarah....Thanks to Tina Fey....Sarah may hang on to infamy for a long long time. Which would be the ONLY way.

      Where she is concerned, I really have only one question, "WHAT the he!! was John McCain thinking??!...........Up+++

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      tillsontitan: Thank you for the accolades. Too many people I admire are teachers for me to include myself in that category, but thanks. What part of NY are you from? (anyway? - for those who criticize southerners for ending their sentences with a preposition!)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      3 years ago from New York

      Thank you for the interesting history lesson. If I had history teachers like you I might remember a lot more than I do.

      Of course reading the names triggers a bit of memory but either way this is a great hub!

      Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Tom: too kind.

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 

      5 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      Kathleen, you are so gracious in allowing, even encouraging, critique. You may be a former newspaper lady, but your attitude will never allow you to become "old!"

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Tom: You have added so much to this hub! I'm going to have to spend some adding all your good informtion! Thank you. Thank you. As an old newspaper lady, I appreciate editing that makes a story better.

    • Tom Koecke profile image

      Tom Koecke 

      5 years ago from Tacoma, Washington

      You cited Henry Cabot Lodge as Nixon's running mate in 1960 who lost to JFK. Prior to that, he was a Senator from Massachussetts until he lost the seat in 1952 to JFK!

      Now a correction and a consideration:

      George Clinton was VP for Jefferson's second term and Madison's first term. Pinckney lost to both as a Presidential candidate.

      Even though Walter Mondale served as VP for Carter, he also was the losing VP candidate in 1980, and ran for President in 1984. I don't know if having served, he would be considered for joining FDR and Bob Dole as losing VP candidates who later were nominated as Presidential candidates.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      aexbush: Thank you. Thank you for the correction. I learned being a reported to correct errors quickly. Only way to keep your credibility and we all need editors. Thanks.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks. It's the newspaper reporter coming out in me. Good to hear I've still "got it." Welcome to my hubs, Rodric29.

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      5 years ago from Peoria, Arizona

      Nice article. You did a great job capturing the reader and keeping us interested. I also like that the article provided information in a concise manner.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Roberthewettsr: Welcome to my hubs. Glad you enjoyed this one, which was too much fun to research! Thanks for the comment. If you are a history buff, I'll have to read some of yours too.

    • ROBERTHEWETTSR profile image

      rOBERT hEWETT SR. 

      5 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      Absolutely informative and entertaining hub. Thanks for this history lession hub. I will read more of your posts.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      This one was really fun to do and a little bit confusing in the beginning until I realized/remembered in the beginning the number 2 vote getter for Pres. became the VP. I wonder how that would work today? Maybe we could get something done!

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Absolutely fascinating. I didn't know any of this. Thank heavens I didn't have to pass a test covering this to get into graduate school. Guess I would still be busy quilting and making jewelry...which wouldn't be so bad. :) Great hub. :) Sharing.

    • aexbush profile image

      Stephen Bush 

      5 years ago from Ohio

      I was looking for a way to just send you an email but do not see one on your profile page. No need to publish this as I just want to pass along a typo I noticed: The reference to Theodore Roosevelt in the following should be to Franklin:

      Only one VP on a losing ticket later became President. Theodore Roosevelt, who was James Cox's vice presidential choice in 1920, went on to be elected president — 12 years later.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I'm a history nut. Politics I try to take in small doses or I get myself in trouble. But history is fun! Thanks for commenting so quickly!

    • xstatic profile image

      Jim Higgins 

      5 years ago from Eugene, Oregon

      What a great idea for a Hub! Informative and entertaining too. I hope that another candidate soon becomes a footnote, personally.

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