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).
- 2000 primary to Rush, 59 percent to 30 percent
George W. Bush
- 1978 race for a U.S. House seat, 53-47
- 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
- 1976 Republican presidential nomination to Gerald Ford, 1,187 delegates to 1,070 delegates and 27 states to 23 states
- 1966 Democratic primary for Georgia governor, third place
- 1980 race for reelection as president, 51-41
- 1976 campaign for president (as unelected incumbent), 50-48
- 1960 presidential race to John F. Kennedy, 49.7-49.6
- 1962 campaign for California governor, 52-47
- 1941 Democratic primary for U.S. Senate in Texas, 30.5-30.3
- 1960 Democratic nomination to Kennedy
- And arguably the 1948 Senate race, too
- 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.