With upraised arms, President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Vice President Richard Nixon salute cheering workers and Republicans at Republican election headquarters in Washington, November 7, 1956, after Adlai Stevenson conceded, with the Republicans winning in a landslide. (AP Photo)

Update 10:52 a.m. Thursday: I talked over this post in a contentious (not really) interview with Ken Rudin on the "Political Junkie" this week. Fast forward to the 42-minute mark if interested.

The path to the presidency is often paved with failure. In fact, as we have noted before, almost every major presidential candidate in 2012 had a loss under his or her political belt, from Mitt Romney to Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann. And President Obama has his own loss -- a 2000 primary challenge to Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) that he lost by 29 (!) points.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Fix friend and "Political Junkie" Ken Rudin posed this trivia question on Sunday, and we think it's a good one.

So what's the answer? Let's work backward on presidents who lost campaigns (of once sort or another).

Barack Obama

  • 2000 primary to Rush, 59 percent to 30 percent

George W. Bush

  • 1978 race for a U.S. House seat, 53-47

Bill Clinton

  • 1974 race for a U.S. House seat, 52-48
  • 1980 reelection campaign as governor of Arkansas, 52-48

George H.W. Bush

  • 1964 race for U.S. Senate, 56-44
  • 1970 race for Senate, 53-47
  • 1992 reelection campaign as president, 43-37

Ronald Reagan

  • 1976 Republican presidential nomination to Gerald Ford, 1,187 delegates to 1,070 delegates and 27 states to 23 states

Jimmy Carter

  • 1966 Democratic primary for Georgia governor, third place
  • 1980 race for reelection as president, 51-41

Gerald Ford

  • 1976 campaign for president (as unelected incumbent), 50-48

Richard Nixon

  • 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy, 49.7-49.6
  • 1962 campaign for California governor, 52-47

Lyndon Johnson


  • 1956 Democratic nomination for vice president to Estes Kefauver

Yes, the last president to retire from politics without any sort of a political loss under his belt was Dwight Eisenhower, 11 presidents and more than half a century ago.

Which is proof of that old political adage: The best way to never lose a campaign is to become supreme commander of NATO and a five-star general before running your first campaign.