Repeat Offenders in Presidential Elections Since 1972
More than 30 percent of the nearly 200 non-incumbent presidential candidacies since 1972 have been by those who previously attempted a White House bid
With Rick Santorum officially kicking off his presidential bid last week and Rick Perry expected to do so this Thursday, the number of failed White House contenders who are seeking a second chance in 2016 continues to rise.
When all is said and done, it appears there will be five major party presidential retreads in the 2016 field.
Former Secretary of State and 2008 Democratic nominee runner-up Hillary Clinton is the lone Democrat to attempt a second run at the presidency this cycle.
On the Republican side, Mike Huckabee (2008), Perry (2012), and Santorum (2012) will likely be joined by Ohio Governor John Kasich in July. Kasich made a brief run at the White House during the 2000 cycle.
While the appearance of five losing presidential candidates in one cycle might seem like a high number – it has been eclipsed on multiple occasions in the modern primary era.
A Smart Politics study finds that 59 of the more than 190 non-incumbent presidential candidacies since 1972 were by ‘retread’ candidates, or 30.6 percent.
Each of the dozen cycles during this period featured at least two major party candidates who had previously made a White House bid, with an average of nearly five such candidacies per cycle.
By 1972, a majority of states were holding presidential primaries or caucuses to award delegates for the party’s national convention.
Over the 12 election cycles from 1972 through 2016, the nation has seen nearly five-dozen retread candidacies by major party or notable independent politicians, or more than 30 percent of the 193 to run for the office during this period.
The largest number of losing presidential candidates seeking redemption during this era in any given cycle is seven – reached in 1976, 1988, and 2000.
In 1976, Republican Ronald Reagan made his second presidential run – eight years after losing his party’s nomination to Richard Nixon.
That same year, five Democrats (plus one former Democrat) returned to the campaign trail after one or more failed bids: Alabama Governor George Wallace (1964, 1968, 1972), former Minnesota U.S. Senator Eugene McCarthy (1968, 1972) – running as an independent, former Oklahoma U.S. Senator Fred Harris (1972), Washington U.S. Senator Scoop Jackson (1972), former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford (1972), and Washington, D.C. U.S. Delegate Walter Fauntroy (1972).
In the open 1988 cycle, four Republican and three Democratic retreads ran for president with Vice President George H.W. Bush (1980) winning the general election.
Kansas U.S. Senator Bob Dole (1980), former Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen (1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984), and former Special Ambassador to Paraguay Ben Fernandez (1980, 1984) also sought the GOP nomination.
On the Democratic side, Gary Hart (1984), Jesse Jackson (1984), and Lyndon LaRouche (1976, 1980, 1984) also launched official campaigns.
In 2000, former presidential candidates included Democratic Vice President Al Gore (1988) and LaRouche (1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996) and former Tennessee Republican Governor Lamar Alexander (1996), publisher Steve Forbes (1996), former United Nations Economic and Social Council Ambassador Alan Keyes (1996), columnist Pat Buchanan (1992, 1996), and Stassen (1944, 1948, 1952, 1964, 1968, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996).
The open 2008 cycle saw six former White House contenders launch second (or third) presidential bids: Delaware U.S. Senator Joe Biden (1988), former North Carolina U.S. Senator John Edwards (2004), and Ohio U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (2004) on the Democratic side and Arizona U.S. Senator John McCain (2000), Texas U.S. Representative Ron Paul (1988, 1992), and Keyes (1996, 2000) for the GOP.
The fewest number of non-incumbent repeat presidential candidates across this 12-cycle period came in 2004 with only two: Democratic Missouri Congressman Dick Gephardt (1988) and LaRouche (1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000).
At least four ‘repeat offenders’ have run in every cycle except in 2004 and 2012, when three such Republicans vied for their party’s nomination once again: Mitt Romney (2008), Herman Cain (2000), and Ron Paul (1988, 1992, 2008).
Overall, an average of 4.9 non-incumbent losing presidential retreads have run for the presidency per cycle since 1972.
An equal number – 29 each – have been Democrats and Republicans, with one notable independent (Ross Perot in 1996).
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