Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
E-Mail: bergen.anthony@gmail.com
Posts tagged "Presidential elections"
Asker Anonymous Asks:
If LBJ didn't go on his death spiral post-1968, do you think he could have snagged back the Democratic nomination in 1972 and beat Nixon? Or would he just be laughed out as a demented old man trying to regain power at every step of the way?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

No, I don’t think anybody could have beaten Richard Nixon in 1972. The man won 49 out of 50 states. LBJ removed himself (as much as LBJ could ever removed himself) from the political process after leaving the Presidency. He would have needed a really good reason for jumping back into Presidential politics so quickly after getting out of politics — on a personal level and politically — and I don’t know that he would have had one. And while I think Johnson would have beaten Nixon if they had faced each other in 1968, I think Nixon would have beaten Johnson if the tables were turned in 1972 because incumbency is such a powerful weapon in Presidential politics. LBJ would have done better than George McGovern had done and Nixon wouldn’t have won 49 states, but I still think he would have lost.

Of course, it’s all a moot point anyway because LBJ was dying in 1972. Even if he had run and had been elected in November 1972, he’d have died in office. As it was, LBJ died two days after Inauguration Day 1973 — Nixon was sworn in for his second term on January 20th and LBJ died on January 22nd.

No American has ever had more success as a Presidential candidate than Franklin D. Roosevelt and, barring a change in the Constitution, no one ever will.  After unseating incumbent President Herbert Hoover in 1932, FDR won one of the largest landslides in American history in 1936 against Kansas Governor Alf Landon.  In 1940, Roosevelt broke the unwritten two-term tradition set forth by George Washington and followed by all of Roosevelt’s predecessors to win an unprecedented third term.  In 1944, with the nation in the middle of World War II, FDR shot down questions about his clearly deteriorating health to win his fourth Presidential election.  Roosevelt died 82 days into his fourth and final term.  In each of Roosevelt’s Presidential election victories, FDR won a significant majority of the popular vote and four clear-cut landslides in the Electoral College.

Ironically, FDR — the most successful Presidential candidate in American history — also happens to be the only President to have lost a campaign for the VICE Presidency.  Throughout President Woodrow Wilson’s Administration, which included World War I, Roosevelt served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, a position that Roosevelt’s famous distant cousin, Theodore Roosevelt, had used as one of the springboards for his career.

Loyalty to President Wilson and Roosevelt’s own unique charisma and appeal made FDR a rising star in the Democratic Party.  At the 1920 Democratic National Convention in San Francisco, Ohio Governor James M. Cox emerged as a compromise Presidential nominee to the deadlocked Convention and the Democrats nominated the 38-year-old Roosevelt as Vice President.

FDR was a workhorse and campaigned tirelessly throughout the nation as an advocate for Cox as well as for the previous eight years of Democratic rule under the Wilson Administration.  The country, however, was ready for a change and drifted towards Cox’s opponent and fellow Ohioan, Senator Warren G. Harding.  Harding and his Vice President, Calvin Coolidge, defeated Cox and Roosevelt in November, but FDR had made an impact on the Americans who heard him speak during the hours and hours of speeches that he had given during his tens of thousands of miles of travel throughout the 1920 campaign.  The next time FDR was on a national ticket, the results were different.  With his name on top of the ballot, Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never lose another campaign again.

To this day, not only has a losing Vice Presidential candidate never been elected President, but only one losing Vice Presidential candidate besides FDR — 1976 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Bob Dole — has come back to even won his or her party’s nomination as President.

As Election Day 1916 approached, former New York Governor and Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes appeared to be heavily favored to defeat incumbent President Woodrow Wilson.  Wilson was so certain of his impending defeat that he decided that he would resign after Hughes won the election. 

President Wilson — who held a doctorate in government — felt that the transition period from Election Day (in November) until Inauguration Day (in March) was too long to have a lame duck President, particularly while World War I was getting underway in Europe.  In what would have been an unprecedented act, Wilson had decided that, in the event of a Hughes victory, he would appoint Hughes as Secretary of State.  Then Wilson would resign the Presidency and Vice President Thomas R. Marshall would also resign so that Hughes could immediately assume the Presidency.

On Election night, it appeared that was exactly what would happen.  Early returns showed a solid lead for Hughes and some outlets called the election for the man Theodore Roosevelt called “the bearded iceberg”.  As the night dragged on, though, and it became clear that California would go for President Wilson, the extraordinary plan that Wilson had hatched to prevent a lame duck President was relegated to the what-could-have-been pile. 

When a reporter called the Hughes campaign’s headquarters to get a reaction to the rapidly changing circumstances, an aide to Hughes said that candidate had gone to sleep and somewhat presumptuously added, “The President cannot be disturbed”.  The reporter said, “Well, when he wakes up, tell the President he isn’t President anymore”. 

By the next morning, Wilson had won re-election with a narrow victory in the popular vote and the Electoral College. Hughes later became Secretary of State under Presidents Harding and Coolidge and was appointed Chief Justice of the United States by President Hoover following the death of William Howard Taft.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Romney/McRaven 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

First of all, we don’t even know what political party Admiral McRaven belongs to. Secondly, if McRaven does make himself available for political office, I highly doubt it would be as Vice President — especially when he’s one of the few people who could actually beat Hillary Clinton.

If he’s a Republican, I’d love to see Admiral McRaven run because he’s demonstrated his ability as a leader and we need the best possible leadership. Even if he’s not a member of my party, I’d like to see him as a nominee because we deserve to have the best options possible when we’re choosing our President. 

And if he’s a Democrat…well…I’m quickly talking myself into him anyway. For more on McRaven’s qualifications, go read the article published Saturday on CNN.com by Peter Bergen (no relation), "William McRaven: The man who hunted bin Laden, Saddam, and the pirates"

Asker Anonymous Asks:
If you were told that you would win $1 million if you chose a Republican who could win the 2016 election who would it be? The rules are that anyone you choose to run would accept but you only win the million dollars if the republican you pick actually wins the election
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Just a few days ago, I mentioned the person that Republicans should be begging and pleading to declare that he belongs to their party and urging to run for office: Admiral William McRaven, who is in a perfect position to do just that since he retired from the Navy just a few days ago.

McRaven is the rare American public figure who is untouched (and unsullied) by the political climate of the last 20 years. He was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command during a time when the work of the Special Forces truly stood out as the best of the best. He played a major role in finding Saddam Hussein and organizing and commanding the mission that killed Osama bin Laden. McRaven even continued taking part in Navy SEAL raids in Afghanistan while he was a three-star Admiral.

Who could run against that? How would any career politician — Democrat or Republican — possibly challenge Admiral McRaven if he decided to run for President? They couldn’t. McRaven could say, “This country needs leadership and this is how I’ve led,” and no politician could stand up and say, “Well, you haven’t served in Congress or as an elected official” because McRaven could just say, “Exactly. And this is how I led…”

Hell, I’m starting to hope he’s a Democrat because I’ve talked myself into McRaven for President. 

Asker chrisdelberk Asks:
What do you think of the possibility of a Tea Party 3rd candidate in 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

If it happened, it would automatically hand the election over to the Democrats. A third party candidate would split the non-Democratic vote, and neither the mainstream Republican candidate or the third party Tea Party candidate would be able to garner the votes needed to win many, if any, states. It would result in a Democratic landslide in the Electoral College, and it would be catastrophic for the GOP.

An example of what this would look like is the 1912 election when incumbent President William Howard Taft, a Republican, was challenged by his mentor and predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, for the GOP nomination. Since Taft was President and the President is head of the party, Taft controlled enough delegates to hold on to the Republican nomination despite Roosevelt’s popularity nationally and scores of dissatisfied Republicans. When Taft was renominated, Roosevelt bolted from the party and became the Progressive Party (or “Bull Moose” Party) nominee. The Taft/Roosevelt split also fractured the Republican Party and the scattered any possible majority for President Taft or Roosevelt. It also drove many progressive Republicans towards the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, who pledged a progressive platform. Wilson hadn’t even served two years as Governor of New Jersey at that point (his only experience in elective politics), but the drama within the Republican Party during the 1912 election guaranteed Wilson’s victory so far out that Wilson spent much of the final weeks of the campaign working to elect Democratic members of Congress to work with him once he was elected President instead of focusing on his own campaign.

The final result was an Electoral College and popular vote bloodbath. In the Electoral College, Wilson won 435 votes to Roosevelt’s 88 and Taft’s 8. Wilson won 42% of the popular vote while Roosevelt won 27% and Taft won 23%. It would be very difficult for a third party candidate to win a Presidential election — not impossible, but very difficult. For a third party candidate to win, that party would likely need to be on the ballot in two or three Presidential elections first in order to gain exposure, complete ballot access nationally, and win the confidence of an electorate which has become conditioned to vote for one of two major parties. A third party candidate’s success in a Presidential election would also likely require a solid foundation on the local, state, and federal love, so that there is a base of supporters, surrogates, and other elected officials to advocate the party and its candidate. A third party’s success wouldn’t come from winning one Presidential election; it would come from electing members of Congress, Governors, local officials, and then winning a Presidential election. Like I said, it’s not impossible, but it is very difficult — and it is way harder now than it was in 1912 when Theodore Roosevelt was just a few years removed from a very popular Presidency and one of the most famous people in the world.

Finally — and this is the most important thing pertaining to your question — a Tea Party candidate absolutely can not and will not ever win a national election. A third party candidate winning a Presidential election is unlikely but not impossible; a Tea Party candidate winning a Presidential election is impossible. There is no way to make the Electoral College math work for a Tea Party candidate on the national level. And if the Tea Party did run a third party candidate for President, that would be as a major protest against the mainstream Republican Party. It would sabotage the party’s shot at that particular election, and possibly even fatally split the party on a national level. Tea Party candidates can win (and have won) seats in Congress, but a national election victory isn’t even slightly possible. The GOP would do everything it could to prevent a third party candidate from the Tea Party running for President.  

In my American Government class today, we had to try and predict the outcome of the 2016 Presidential election based on passed voting trends. We concluded that the most likely candidate to win would be a Republican Governor. If there's any chance this assumption is right, which candidate do you think could pull this off?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

An incumbent Republican Governor? As I’ve said many times, I don’t see the Electoral College math working out in 2016 for any Republican candidate, and I especially don’t see any current Republican Governor winning the nomination or election. The best two candidates for the GOP, in my opinion, are Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney. Now, they are both former Governors, of course, but not currently in office.

With that said, I do believe Governors tend to be the best Presidential candidates and have the best “head start” of sorts if elected President. Governors have executive experience that is about the closest thing to the Presidency that one can experience, even if they are on completely different levels.

If I had to choose the incumbent Governor who would be the best candidate nationally for the GOP in 2016, I’d say that it’s Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. He has a lot going for him and is a rising star, but 2016 is too soon for Governor Sandoval. Still, if I’m forced to pick a GOP Governor currently serving, that’s who I would put my money on.

[Vice President Wilson claims] Grant is now more unpopular than Andrew Johnson was in his darkest days; that Grant’s appointments [have] been getting worse and worse; that he is still struggling for a third term; in short, that he is the millstone around the neck of our party that would sink it out of sight.

Congressman James Garfield (R-OH), on the declining popularity of President Ulysses S. Grant, a fellow Republican and Ohio native, during the latter half of Grant’s second term in the White House, according to information Grant’s Vice President Henry Wilson shared with Garfield in January 1875.

While President Grant remained personally honest, scandals and corruption had tainted his Administration due to the Civil War hero’s poor judgment when it came to his political appointments. As the upcoming 1876 Presidential election approached it appeared as if Grant would break with tradition and seek an unprecedented third term in the White House. Vice President Wilson was one of the members of Grant’s party interested in succeeding him, but Wilson died in office in November 1875.

Eventually, Grant stepped aside and Ohio Governor Rutherford B. Hayes won the Republican nominee for President in 1876. A controversial and bitterly-disputed election between Hayes and Democrat nominee Samuel J. Tilden was only decided by a 15-person Electoral Commission which awarded the Presidency to Hayes on a straight party-line vote (8 Republicans to 7 Democrats) just two days before Inauguration Day 1877. Garfield was one of the eight Republican members of the Electoral Commission.

In 1880, President Hayes delivered on an early pledge to only serve one term in the White House and the Republican National Convention kicked off in Chicago with General Grant the favorite for the nomination as he sought a third term in office. Garfield attended the convention as the leader of the delegation supporting the candidacy of Treasury Secretary John Sherman, a longtime Ohio Senator and the younger brother of Grant’s Civil War colleague and friend, General William Tecumseh Sherman. The convention soon became deadlocked as supporters of Grant and James G. Blaine unsuccessfully attempted to break through the logjam from ballot-to-ballot. Although Garfield had not intended to seek the nomination for himself, his name began to pop up as balloting continued but didn’t gain a foothold until nearly three dozen ballots had taken place.

Garfield continued to insist that he was not a candidate and remained loyal to Sherman’s efforts, but the convention’s 34th ballot witnessed movement in Garfield’s favor as delegates began to see the dark horse as an acceptable compromise candidate who might be able to bring the paralyzed convention to a conclusion. On the 36th ballot, James G. Blaine’s supporters, eager to stymie Grant’s hopes, threw their support behind Garfield, making him the unexpected Presidential nominee in the longest GOP convention up to that point in history. Garfield would go on to be elected President in November 1880, was inaugurated on March 4, 1881, was shot by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881, and lingered for weeks before finally dying on September 19, 1881, at the age of 49 and just 199 days into his Presidency.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What if we had McRaven/Petraeus for a third party?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Third-party candidacies for the Presidency are very difficult, so a major party nomination would be the way to go. Third-party candidates not only have to establish their party and platform, but have to work extra hard to ensure that they have a place on the ballot in all 50 states once Election Day rolls around. It’s not impossible, but it isn’t easy. Plus, third-party candidates — especially if it were a candidate like Admiral McRaven or General Petraeus — would siphon votes off from the Republican nominee and Democratic nominee, and it would likely result in one of the major party candidates winning the election with a minority of votes which makes the new President pretty weak from the outset. In a three-way race (in Presidential politics), one of the major parties will almost always win because they have a stronger and more expansive base than a brand-new third-party trying to build on a foundation that isn’t very solid yet. For a third-party Presidential candidate to have a serious chance of being elected, that third-party needs to have been extant for at least one or two previous election cycles. That gives the third-party a chance to establish name recognition, demonstrate the party’s ideology, raise money, build organizations throughout the country, and, hopefully, elect officials to offices further down the ballot (House, Senate, Governor) prior to running a candidate with a real shot at the Presidency.

Also, a McRaven/Petraeus ticket would be far too top-heavy when it comes to the military. If Admiral McRaven (or General Petraeus) were the Presidential nominee, it would make better sense politically to balance the ticket with a civilian. If the goal was to run a ticket that wasn’t “politics as usual” (which would be the best strategy), I’d suggest picking a business leader as the running mate. If not a business leader, I’d steer clear of Congress and recommend a politician not tarnished by Washington’s toxic political climate — a statewide elected official such as a Governor, Lieutenant Governor, or Attorney General, or even someone from the Judiciary. But if I’m a political strategist or party leader, I wouldn’t run two military commanders — even two commanders as capable and respected as Admiral McRaven and General Petraeus — together on the same ticket.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Are there any wild card candidates who would make a difference if they ran for president in 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t know what party he belongs to, but if the GOP were smart, they’d be BEGGING Admiral William McRaven to declare that he is Republican and anoint him as their 2016 Presidential nominee tomorrow. Admiral McRaven is a star, he’s a hell of a public speaker, he’s the commander of the special operations forces that played such an integral part in the War on Terror, and while President Obama ordered the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, Admiral McRaven planned the details and oversaw the operation as it was being carried out. General David Petraeus would have been a perfect choice before his extramarital affair took a bit of the shine off of him (General Petraeus could still bounce back from that if he wanted to run); Admiral McRaven would be a dangerous candidate against any of the most-talked-about potential 2016 candidates. He could even beat Hillary Clinton.

Would he run? I don’t know. And if Admiral McRaven did run, is he even a Republican? That’s what the GOP should be trying to figure out. Like I said, General Petraeus could rise above the affair he had and still be a Presidential contender, so I think the GOP should be targeting him, too, trying to ascertain whether he is a Republican, and urging him to consider seeking the Presidency.

We haven’t elected a President primarily known for his military career since Dwight D. Eisenhower, but we also haven’t had top-level military commanders seek the Presidency very often since then. General Wesley Clark sought the 2004 Democratic Presidential nomination, but I thought his campaign was really low-key and half-assed. I actually supported General Clark at first in 2004, but it seemed like I was more excited about the prospect of his candidacy than the General was. Other than Clark, nobody primarily known for being a military commander has even sought a major party’s Presidential nomination since Eisenhower was elected. 

Al Gore will always be a potential wild card who could shake up the race, as well, but someone like Admiral McRaven would really turn things on their head. The least popular Americans in the country right now are politicians with the exception of a few state Governors who still enjoy a bit of popularity in their own regions but are largely unknown outside of that area. Who better to run for President at a time when Americans have a record-low opinion of politicians than someone who ISN’T a politician? It is difficult for non-politicians to gain traction in Presidential elections because as unpopular as politicians might be, the electorate immediately wonders whether a person who hasn’t held elective office is qualified to lead. Those questions would be null-and-void with Admiral William McRaven. Of course he is qualified to lead, and he’s not only undamaged by the toxic political climate of the 21st Century but he’s so above politics that we don’t even know what party he belongs to until he tells us. I never mention him with potential 2016 candidates because I’ve never heard his name connected with a possible run (or connected with any of the parties), but Admiral McRaven could win and win big (even against Hillary Clinton) if he could be convinced to run.

I'm more of a lefty as well and I agree with your analysis. I'm curious though, who do you see as a winnable GOPer if Hills doesn't take too much of a nosedive from Obama's second term shortcomings? My gut tells me that Portman would be an excellent challenger, though I think his marriage equality support bc of his son is a liability for him on the natl stage with his base. Beyond that, there's not really any mainstreamers that have the fire and centrism that I think they need
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I don’t think any Republican can win a national election against Hillary Clinton. I think Jon Huntsman could give her a run for her money, but that would require Huntsman wrapping up the GOP nomination extremely early and the rest of the country getting to know him really well before the general election season kicks into gear. But that’s not going to happen. The GOP’s best chance — and I know that it isn’t exciting and it isn’t what most people want to see — is Jeb Bush. Or, even less exciting — Mitt Romney. I can’t imagine Romney running again unless Bush decides not to and the GOP is dying for someone who could give them a shot, but Romney is relatively undamaged for a guy who lost a Presidential election.

Interestingly, if Mitt Romney ran again in 2016, that might remove the problems Hillary is going to face about her age. A lot of people don’t realize this because he doesn’t seem to age, but Mitt Romney is actually over 7 months older than Hillary. If it was Hillary vs. Mitt, no matter what the outcome, the next President would be the second-oldest to ever be elected.

I definitely understand that thinking, but the longer that primary campaigns are drawn out, the more damage the eventual nominee takes from their own side that can be used against them in the general election. And, sometimes, when someone from the fringe launches a campaign, they get that taste for the Presidency, and might decide to launch a third-party challenge, which would siphon votes from the eventual nominee and could possibly swing a national election that would otherwise be a definite victory. Presidential campaigns — whether it is a primary campaign or the general election — are not the time to score points, no matter how important the issue might be. It’s harmful for the process and, honestly, it doesn’t really work because the campaign is always the story, not the issues, as strange as that might sound.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
What do you think about the prospect of Howard Dean piloting a candidacy in 2016?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I like Governor Dean, but I don’t see that happening. There are three Democrats who would be ahead of him if he jumped in the race — Hillary Clinton, Vice President Biden, and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. One of those three Democrats will be the Democratic nominee in 2016. If Hillary and Vice President Biden didn’t run for some reason, Dean might be in a position to gain some traction, but once the rest of the country sees Governor O’Malley, it’ll be all over. O’Malley is smooth and he’s the real deal.