Where are they now: Famous runners-up for the Presidency
Often highly controversial and frequently basted with partisan acrimony, American presidential elections generate great interest in not only who won, but also how the losers managed to lose. Who were these contenders (or pretenders) who came up short, and what are they up to now?
Stacker dug through information from sources including the Federal Election Commission, the U.S. Electoral College, historical accounts, and major news sources to spotlight the lives of 25 vanquished candidates, living or dead, following their losses. The slides include the candidates' parties, the runners-up, the victors, and the margin of defeat in Electoral College votes. The results do not reflect third party or minor party candidates except where they gained more than 25 Electoral College votes.
Whether buried in landslides or just barely missing the mark, the research denotes whether these “also-rans” continued in politics, made further impacts on American society or dropped out of the public eye to pursue other interests.
Read on to get a glimpse into the lives of 25 challengers who fell short.
ALSO: Read to find out which presidential candidates ran the most dominant race.
1900: William Jennings Bryan (D) lost to William McKinley (R)
Electoral College vote: McKinley, 292 Bryan, 155
This was the second of three failed attempts by Bryan to win the presidency. He lost to McKinley in 1896, and to William Howard Taft in 1908. When Woodrow Wilson won the presidency in 1912, he named Bryan as Secretary of State. But Bryan disagreed with Wilson on entering World War I and resigned his post in 1915. Staunchly opposed to the theory of Darwinism, Bryan is best remembered as the attorney who won the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial in 1925. He died five days after the verdict.
1904: Alton Parker (D) lost to Theodore Roosevelt (R)
Electoral College vote: Roosevelt, 336 Parker, 140
Losing to incumbent President Theodore Roosevelt, who ascended to the presidency following the assassination of William McKinley in 1901, Parker himself had ascended to the New York Supreme Court after the death of his predecessor, Justice Theodore Westbrook, in 1885. After the election, he returned to his law practice, representing organized labor, and served a year term as president of the American Bar Association.
1916: Charles Evans Hughes (R) lost to Woodrow Wilson (D)
Electoral College vote: Wilson, 277 Hughes, 254
In a race decided by fewer than 600,000 votes, Hughes moved on after his loss to serve as Secretary of State in the Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge administrations. He negotiated a separate peace treaty with Germany when the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. He served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1930-1941 and wrote the opinion on a case that determined that prior restraint of the press is unconstitutional.
1920: James Cox (D) lost to Warren Harding (R)
Electoral College vote: Harding, 404 Cox, 127
In a battle between newspaper publishers, Cox lost to Harding by the largest popular vote margin (26.17%) in American history. Cox, who had served two terms as governor of Ohio, went on to build Cox Enterprises, acquiring the Miami Daily News and the Canton Daily News, along with other newspapers and radio stations. The corporation has since grown to 60,000 employees and over $20 billion in revenue.
1932: Herbert Hoover (R) lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Electoral College vote: Roosevelt, 472 Hoover, 59
Incumbent Herbert Hoover had the unenviable distinction of serving as president during the Great Depression, and the Wall Street Crash happened on his watch. After his resounding defeat—he lost by more than seven million votes—Hoover became an outspoken critic of Roosevelt's domestic and foreign policies. He opposed the U.S. entry into WWII. Hoover later served under presidents Truman and Eisenhower on commissions studying better efficiency in the federal bureaucracy.
1936: Alf Landon (R) lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Electoral College vote: Roosevelt, 523 Landon, 8
Republican Landon lost the Electoral College vote in the biggest landslide in the 48-state era in history. Landon, who served as governor of Kansas from 1933-1937, did not seek further public office, but later supported the Marshall Plan and President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs and delivered a series of lectures at Kansas State University.
1940: Wendell Willkie (R) lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Electoral College Vote: Roosevelt, 449 Willkie, 82
Prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States remained neutral in WWII, but Willkie favored greater American involvement to support the Allies. Following the election and the attack on Pearl Harbor, he gave Roosevelt his full support and political assistance, including endorsing military aid to Britain and Roosevelt's Lend-Lease program. He tested the waters for a presidential run in 1944, but withdrew.
1944: Thomas Dewey (R) lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Electoral College Vote: Roosevelt, 432 Dewey, 99
The former three-time New York governor ran unsuccessfully for president in both 1944 and 1948, losing to Harry Truman in 1948 in what was considered one of the greatest upsets in American presidential politics. The "Chicago Daily Tribune" printed its famous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline prior to the final results of the 1944 contest. Dewey played a key role in the Republican nomination of Dwight D. Eisenhower at the 1952 national convention.
1948: Thomas Dewey (R) and Strom Thurmond (Dixiecrat) lost to Harry Truman (D)
Electoral College Vote: Truman, 303 Dewey, 189 Thurmond, 39
Thurmond, a states' rights and segregation advocate, served as governor of South Carolina beginning in 1946 before leading the States' Rights Democrats (Dixicrats) in 1948. After his election loss, Thurmond was elected to the Senate by write-in vote in 1954. He later supported Republican Barry Goldwater's presidential bid and was reelected to the Senate as a Republican for seven consecutive terms.
1952: Adlai Stevenson (D) lost to Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Electoral College Vote: Eisenhower, 442 Stevenson, 89
Stevenson helped found the United Nations, and was named ambassador by President John F. Kennedy to serve as the chief U.S. delegate from 1961-1965. He lost to Eisenhower in landslides in both 1952 and 1956. During the 1960 presidential campaign, a Soviet ambassador offered financial aid and public relations assistance if he decided to run. He considered the offer highly improper and dangerous, and reported the incident directly to President Eisenhower.