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.