Sabato's Crystal Ball

List of Pre-Presidential Losers

Presidents not listed did not lose any races before winning the White House. Although prior to the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 senators were selected by state legislators, earlier failed campaigns for Senate seats—such as two waged by Abraham Lincoln, noted below—are included here even though they were not direct popular elections.

  • Thomas Jefferson
    Lost president, 1796
  • James Madison
    Lost VA legislative election, 1777
    Lost Senate, 1788
  • James Monroe
    Lost House, 1789
    Lost Democratic-Republican presidential nomination, 1808
  • John Quincy Adams
    Served in Senate, but removed by Massachusetts legislature in 1808
  • Andrew Jackson
    Lost presidency, 1824
  • William Henry Harrison
    Lost OH governor, two Senate seats and a House seat between 1820-1822
    Lost presidency as part of regional Whig ticket, 1836
  • John Tyler
    Lost vice presidency as part of regional Whig ticket, 1836
  • James K. Polk
    Lost TN governor, 1841 and 1843
  • Millard Fillmore
    Lost NY governor, 1844
  • James Buchanan
    Lost House race, 1816
    Lost presidential bids in 1844, 1848 and 1852
  • Abraham Lincoln
    Lost IL legislative race, 1832
    Lost Whig nomination for House race, 1843
    Lost Senate, 1855 and 1858
  • Andrew Johnson
    Lost reelection to TN legislature, 1837
  • Rutherford B. Hayes
    Lost House, 1872
  • Grover Cleveland
    Lost NY district attorney election, 1865
    Lost presidential reelection bid in 1888; won presidency in 1892
  • Benjamin Harrison
    Lost Republican nomination for governor, 1872
    Lost IN governor, 1876
    Lost Senate, 1879
    Lost reelection to Senate, 1887
  • William McKinley
    Lost reelection as OH county prosecutor, 1871
    Lost reelection to House, 1882 and 1890 (he regained the seat in 1884 election and held it until 1890)
  • Theodore Roosevelt
    Lost New York City mayoral race, 1886
  • Warren G. Harding
    Lost OH county auditor, 1892
    Lost governor, 1910
  • Calvin Coolidge
    Lost MA Northampton School Board, 1905
  • Herbert Hoover
    Lost CA GOP primary for president, 1920.
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
    Lost Senate primary, 1914
    Lost presidential election as VP nominee, 1920
  • Harry Truman
    Lost MO county court, 1924
  • John F. Kennedy
    Lost Democratic nomination for vice president in open convention vote, 1956
  • Lyndon Johnson
    Lost special Democratic Senate primary, 1941
    Lost Democratic presidential nomination, 1960
  • Richard Nixon
    Lost president, 1960
    Lost governor, 1962
  • Jimmy Carter
    Lost GA governor primary, 1966
  • Ronald Reagan
    Lost GOP presidential nomination, 1968
    Lost GOP presidential nomination, 1976
  • George H.W. Bush
    Lost Senate, 1964
    Lost Senate, 1970
    Lost GOP presidential nomination, 1980
  • Bill Clinton
    Lost House, 1974
    Lost AR gubernatorial reelection bid, 1980
  • George W. Bush
    Lost House, 1978
  • Barack Obama
    Lost Democratic House primary, 2000