Only Three Out of the Last 45 Losing V.P. Nominees Have Gone on to Lead Tickets
Only One of Them Won the Presidency...
By Jon Ponder on 11/18/2008, 12:50pm PT  

Guest blogged by Jon Ponder, Pensito Review.

Within hours after Election Day 2008 was over, the punditocracy had moved on to speculation about 2012 and the political future of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee, whom many conservatives consider to be the next GOP frontrunner.

If history is a guide, however, chances are next to nil that Palin will survive the primaries in four years, and even if she does, her odds of winning the presidency are even slimmer. In fact, based on past performances of losing vice presidential nominees over the last 180 years (see chart below), Sarah Palin's chances of becoming president at any point in the future are 45 to 1, at best.

It is not uncommon for losing vice presidential nominees to run for the big job, of course. Most recently John Edwards (who lost with John Kerry in 2004) and Joe Lieberman (Gore, 2000) have run unsuccessful primary campaigns. In the 2000 election, former Vice Pres. Dan Quayle, whose ticket with the senior Pres. Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton in 1992, briefly ran against George W. Bush and John McCain in the GOP primaries.

Other losing vice presidential nominees who later ran but failed to be nominated include Democrat Edmund Muskie, who lost to Richard Nixon on the ticket with Vice Pres. Hubert Humphrey in 1968; Republican Earl Warren, the former California governor and eventual Supreme Court chief justice, who ran with Thomas E. Dewey against Pres. Harry Truman, who won reelection in 1948; and Nicholas M. Butler, running mate to GOP Pres. William H. Taft, who lost to Woodrow Wilson in 1912.

Muskie ran in the primaries in 1972. Warren's name was floated as a rival to Dwight Eisenhower in 1952, and Butler ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in 1920 and 1928.

In fact, in the last 45 cycles, only three losing V.P. nominees have gone on to lead tickets. Vice Pres. Walter Mondale, who, with Pres. Jimmy Carter, lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980, lost again to Reagan in 1984. And Bob Dole, who ran in 1976 on the losing ticket with Pres. Gerald Ford, led the ticket in 1996 that lost to Pres. Bill Clinton.

The only successful candidate in the group was Franklin Roosevelt, who was on the losing ticket in 1920 with James M. Cox, a Democrat, who ran against Warren G. Harding. Twelve years later, Roosevelt won the presidency against Herbert Hoover, and went on to serve four terms.

(Prior to 1828, the electoral process and political party system was so different from today that results are statistically useless for this analysis. See this description of the 1824 race, for example, in which Andrew Jackson ran for president on one ticket and for vice president on another. And in the earliest elections, the presidential candidate who get the second largest number of votes became vice president.)

Past Performance of Failed Vice Presidential Nominees

* Losing VP who became nominee and won the presidency
** Losing VPs who became nominees but lost elections
*** Losing VPs who ran for president but lost in primaries
2008 Barack Obama John McCain Sarah Palin (GOP)
2004 Pres. George Bush John Kerry John Edwards *** (Dem)
2000 George Bush Al Gore Joe Lieberman *** (Dem)
1996 Pres. Bill Clinton Bob Dole Jack Kemp (GOP)
1992 Bill Clinton Pres. George Bush V.P. Dan Quayle *** (GOP)
1988 V.P. George Bush Michael Dukkakis Lloyd Bentsen (Dem)
1984 Pres. Ronald Reagan Fmr. VP Walter Mondale Geraldine A. Ferraro (Dem)
1980 Ronald Reagan Pres. Jimmy Carter VP Walter F. Mondale** (Dem)
1976 Jimmy Carter Pres. Gerald Ford Bob Dole** (GOP)
1972 Pres. Richard Nixon George McGovern Sargent Shriver (Dem)
1968 Richard Nixon V.P. Hubert Humphrey Edmund Muskie *** (Dem)
1964 Pres. Lyndon Johnson Barry M. Goldwater William E. Miller (GOP)
1960 John F. Kennedy Fmr. VP Richard Nixon Henry Cabot Lodge (GOP)
1956 Pres. Dwight Eisenhower Adlai Stevenson II Estes Kefauver (Dem)
1952 Dwight Eisenhower Adlai Stevenson II John J. Sparkman (Dem)
1948 Pres. Harry Truman Thomas E. Dewey Earl Warren *** (GOP)
1944 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt Thomas E. Dewey John W. Bricker (GOP)
1940 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt Wendell L. Willkie Charles L. McNary (GOP)
1936 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt Alfred M. Landon Frank Knox (GOP)
1932 Franklin D. Roosevelt Pres. Herbert Hoover VP Charles Curtis (GOP)
1928 Herbert Hoover Alfred E. Smith Joseph T. Robinson (Dem)
1924 Calvin Coolidge John W. Davis Charles W. Bryan (Dem)
1920 Warren G. Harding James M. Cox Franklin D. Roosevelt (Dem) *
1916 Pres. Woodrow Wilson Charles E. Hughes Fmr. VP Charles W. Fairbanks (GOP)
1912 Woodrow Wilson Pres. William H. Taft Nicholas M. Butler *** (GOP)
1908 William H. Taft William Jennings Bryan John W. Kern (Dem)
1904 Theodore Roosevelt Alton B. Parker Henry G. Davis (Dem)
1900 Pres. William McKinley William Jennings Bryan

Fmr. VP Adlai Stevenson I (Dem)
1896 William McKinley William Jennings Bryan Arthur Sewall (Dem)
1892 Fmr. Pres. Grover Cleveland Pres. Benjamin Harrison Whitelaw Reid (GOP)
1888 Benjamin Harrison Pres. Grover Cleveland A. G. Thurman (Dem)
1884 Grover Cleveland James G. Blaine John A. Logan (GOP)
1880 James A. Garfield Winfield S. Hancock William H. English (Dem)
1876 Rutherford B. Hayes Samuel J. Tilden Thomas A. Hendricks (GOP)
1872 Pres. Ulysses S. Grant Horace Greeley B. Gratz Brown (GOP)
1868 Ulysses S. Grant Horatio Seymour Francis P. Blair, Jr. (GOP)
1864 Pres. Abraham Lincoln George McClellan G.H. Pendleton (Dem)
1860 Abraham Linclon John C. Breckinridge Joseph Lane (Dem)
1856 James Buchanan John C. Fremont William L. Dayton (GOP)
1852 Franklin Pierce Winfield Scott William A. Graham (Whig)
1848 Zachary Taylor Lewis Cass William O. Butler (Dem)
1844 James K. Polk Henry Clay Theo. Frelinghuysen (Whig)
1840 William H. Harrison Pres. Martin Van Buren VP Richard M. Johnson (Dem)
1836 VP Martin Van Buren William H. Harrison Francis Granger (Whig)
1832 Pres. Andrew Jackson Henry Clay John Sergeant (Nat. Rep.)
1828 Andrew Jackson Pres. John Quincy Adams Richard Rush (Nat. Rep.)

Bonus trivia factoid: The daughters of two losing vice presidential nominees are nationally known Californians today. Maria Shriver, the former NBC News reporter who is married to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, is the daughter of Sargent Shriver, the Democrat who lost to Richard Nixon on the ticket with George McGovern in 1972. And Stephanie Miller, the comedian and Los Angeles-based liberal radio talker --- it was she who first called Palin "Caribou Barbie" --- is the daughter of William Miller, who lost with Republican Barry Goldwater to Pres. Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

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