The 9 best sore-loser moments in politics

November 7, 2013

Ken Cuccinelli is declining to call and congratulate Terry McAuliffe on his win in Tuesday's Virginia governor's race.

Meanwhile, in the other governor's race held that day, state Sen. Barbara Buono (D) blamed her loss on an "onslaught of betrayal" from her own political party.


A fan wears a paper bag on his head during the Detroit Lions-New Orleans Saints NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008. New Orleans won 42-7 to drop Detroit to 0-15. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

But these two are hardly the first to take losing so hard. Here's a look at some other notable sore-loser moments in recent political history.

Did we miss any? The comments section awaits, and we may re-visit this if Fix readers come up with a bunch of good ideas.

Steve Lonegan

As the GOP New Jersey Senate candidate conceded to Cory Booker in last month's special election, his wife lovingly rubbed his back to comfort him. After she did it for a while, he decided that was enough, and promptly brushed her hand aside. No word on whether he slept on the couch that night.

Joe Lieberman

Lieberman, in his 2006 reelection campaign, lost the Democratic primary but, through a quirk in election law, was allowed to file as a third-party candidate under the newly created "Connecticut for Lieberman" party. Other states have laws that prevent such maneuvering, not coincidentally called "sore loser" laws.

Lieberman, of course, went on to retain his seat, so it's hard to call him a "loser" at all.

Al Gore

Gore's decision to press on with challenging the results of the 2000 presidential race eventually earned some detractors among his fellow Democrats and led Republicans to label the Gore-Lieberman ticket, "Sore-Loserman."

Of course, many Democrats still think they were robbed and that Gore was right to pursue the matter to the full extent of the law.

Bill Bolling

The Virginia lieutenant governor was none-too-happy that Cuccinelli decided to run for governor this year, believing it was his turn to grab the Republican nomination (after being leapfrogged by Bob McDonnell in 2009). And given the state party chose to nominate via convention rather than primary, the more moderate Bolling saw the writing on the wall.

Bolling said Cuccinelli had promised him he wouldn't run and had manipulated the state party's decision to use a convention. He also questioned Cuccinelli's electability, praised McAuliffe's work on a bipartisan transportation bill and publicly weighed an independent campaign that Republicans feared would torpedo Cuccinelli's changes in the general election. He eventually opted against it.

Bill Clinton

After Barack Obama won the South Carolina primary in 2008, former president Bill Clinton appeared to try and downplay the victory by noting that Jesse Jackson had carried the state twice in the 1980s. The comment was roundly criticized as racially insensitive and for being dismissive of Jackson.

Anthony Weiner

After his embarrassing loss in this year's New York mayoral primary, the former congressman exited with a one-finger salute to photographers snapping pictures of him in his car exiting his election night party.

We're a family newspaper, so we won't post the photo here, but feel free to click through and have a look.

Maotan Dalimbang Kasim

Behold, from just this week:

A candidate for chairman of a remote village in Maguindanao (Philippines) who was defeated in the barangay (village) elections last October 28 and his followers burned down a daycare center in their community on Monday night, the military said.

Captain Antonio Bulao, spokesperson of 602nd Brigade, said Maotan Dalimbang Kasim, who lost in his bid for the chairmanship of Barangay Nabundas in the Municipality of Datu Montawal, and his brother Tatoh led an undetermined number of followers in setting the center on fire.

Gary Smith

This 2012 New Mexico congressional candidate was arrested after allegedly slashing the tires of his primary opponent -- and got caught doing it on video! The worst part: He wasn't even close to defeating her, taking just 3 percent of the vote.

Richard Lugar

After losing to Richard Mourdock in his 2010 primary, the longtime senator pointedly refused to campaign for Mourdock and took issue with a mailer that said he supported the GOP nominee.

Of course, Lugar wound up being on the right side of history on this, as Mourdock wound up bungling the race.

Richard Nixon

Update 11:54 a.m.: As longtime political reporter Walter Shapiro notes, this list somehow excluded Richard Nixon's "You won't have Nixon to kick around any more."

This egregious oversight needed to be corrected immediately, so we're appending video of it here.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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Aaron Blake · November 7, 2013