But just how impressive is this? The only way to know is to rank the post-nomination career of the failed VP nominees, which I have inexplicably done below.
A few caveats:
- The rankings consider their post-nomination career when compared to their pre-nomination career and a lot of it depends on when they peaked - not what that peak was necessarily - so going from un-elected to the House is better than remaining in the Senate.
- It also considers what they think of as success. If they're Governor and run for the Senate - that's a step up. If they're a Senator and run for Governor - that is also a step up.
- I'm not including people who were Vice-President but ran again and lost, because being Vice-President would carry more cache than not. But the post-failed re-election careers of those former VPs can be ranked (1) Walter Mondale, (2) Charles Curtis, (3) Charles Fairbanks, (4) Dan Quayle and (5) Adlai Stevenson I.
- The list also doesn't include the following: Albert Gallatin and Thomas Eagleton, because they withdrew from the race after being nominated but before the election; John Edgar Howard, who was never nominated and never ran - despite which he did quite well; James S. Sherman who died between his nomination and the election; Benjamin Gratz Brown, who died between the election and the Electoral College vote; or Murray Butler who replaced Sherman, but was never really the nominee.
#61 Curtis LeMay (1968) - The former Air Force general left the Republican party to support George Wallace and was subsequently named his running mate. After the election, his political career (he had earlier been approached by Republicans as a possible Senate candidate) was over and his public reputation was significantly diminished. Though he did not share Wallace's pro-segregation positions, running with him left LeMay forever attached to them and LeMay was often assumed to have shared his racist views, despite the evidence to the contrary.
#60 Andrew Jackson Donelson (1856) The former ambassador was Fillmore's running mate on the American Party ticket. Afterwards he was involved in the Constitutional Union party and went to their nominating convention in 1860. But after the Civil Was he was distrusted by the south because of his opposition to secession and the north because of his support of the war. During the war, he was briefly arrested by the Confederates, though the charges were deemed frivolous and he was released.
#59 Joseph Lane (1860) An Oregonian who ran on the pro-slavery Southern Democrat ticket with John Breckenridge, Lane returned to the Senate where he espoused pro-secession positions. As these ideas were unpopular in Oregon, his political career was over and he retired from the Senate in 1861. He retired to his ranch in Oregon where some think he kept a slave until the late 1870's.
#58 Geraldine Ferraro (1984) The first woman ever nominated on a major party ticket, Geraldine Ferraro - unlike Paul Ryan - had to give up her House seat in order to make her run for Vice-President in 1984. Despite being relatively young at the time and with continued political ambitions, it would be the last time she would hold elective office. She made two failed runs for the senate, failing to win the primary both times. She did serve three years as a member of the United States delegation to United Nations Commission on Human Rights, making her an ambassador and she spent time as a political commentator, but her promising career never really got back on track.
#57 Amos Ellsmaker (1832) Pennsylvania's former Attorney General who turned down an offer to be James Monroe's Secretary of War was on the losing ticket of the Anti-Masonic party in 1832. Two years later he ran for the Senate and lost to James Buchanan, after which he retired from politics.
#56 Sargent Shriver (1972) Shriver served as the replacement VP candidate, after Thomas Eagleton resigned, on the 1972 Democratic ticket with George McGovern. By then, the high points of his political career (ambassador, Peace Corps Director, OEO Director) were behind him. He made a run for the presidency in 1976, but he finished far back in the pack, placing in the top 2 in only the Vermont primary. He then retired from politics. Though his post-nomination political career was a bust, his long service as President and then Chairman of the Board of the Special Olympics likely enhanced his reputation.
Retired from Public Life
#55 Allen G. Thurman (1888) - Grover Cleveland ran for president three times, with three different running mates. His running mate during his second, and only losing, run was the retired Senator Allen G. Thurman. After the election, Thurman went back into retirement, and was notably was not chosen to be Cleveland's running mate in 1892, which is why he ranks slightly below the rest in this category.
#49-54 (tie) Richard Stockton (1820), William H. English (1880), James G. Field (1892), Henry G. Davis (1904), William E. Miller (1964), James Stockdale (1992) - For each of these men, the campaign for Vice-President marked the end of their political career. They either retired, returned to retirement or returned to their previous professions, apparently by choice. [Stockton, interestingly, ran without a running mate, as the Federalist Party did not have a nominee for president in 1820] Miller perhaps stands out because after his run he was featured in one of the first "Do you know me?" commercials for American Express.
#48 William O. Butler (1848) - Butler went in to retirement following his loss, but was offered the office of Governor of Nebraska in 1855, a job he turned down. He also attended the 1861 Peace Conference in Washington.
Career high came prior to nomination
#47 Edward Everett (1860) - The Constitutional Union Party nominee for Vice-President in 1860, Everett's career high point came at the end of Millard Fillmore's presidency when he replaced the recently deceased Daniel Webster as Secretary of State. After 1860, Everett remained in a state of semi-retirement working to avoid the Civil War via the Crittenden Compromise and then supporting the Union War effort. Most famously, he gave the featured speech at Gettysburg, which was followed by a much shorter and famous speech by Abraham Lincoln.
#46 Jack Kemp (1996) - After losing the 1996 election, the Republican nominee and former HUD Secretary served on numerous boards and commissions including the Council on Foreign Relations Task Force on Russia and also considered a run for president in 2000.
#45 Theodore Frelinghuysen (1844) - Henry Clay's 1844 running mate, the former Senator Frelingjuysen returned to his job as President of NYU after defeat and later became President of Rutgers.
#44 Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr (1960) - Nixon's first running mate, the former Senator and U.N. ambassador served the next three presidents as an ambassador to South Vietnam, West Germany, at-large and to the Holy See. He also came in 4th place in the 1964 Republican presidential primaries, winning three states as a write-in candidate, without entering the race or campaigning.
#43 Richard Rush (1828) Richard Rush, had been Secretary of the Treasury under John Q. Adams and he became Adams' running mate because Adams' vice-president John C. Calhoun chose to run with Adams' opponent Andrew Jackson (in 1824, Calhoun had been the running mate for both candidates). After the election, he spent time as a low-level diplomat before serving as Polk's Minister to France.
#42 William L. Dayton (1856) The Republican Party's 1st Vice-Presidential nominee, Dayton had been a Senator but after his 1856 loss with Fremont, he was the Attorney General of New Jersey and then Lincoln's Minister to France.
#41 William A. Graham (1852) Winfield Scott's running mate on the 1852 Whig ticket, Graham had been a Senator, Governor and Secretary of the Navy. After the 1852 election he returned to the State Senate in North Carolina and was later elected to the Confederate Senate at the end of the Confederacy. In 1866 he was re-elected to the United States Senate but, because North Caroline had not been readmitted, he was never seated. Remained active in national matters until his death.
#40 Herschel Johnson (1860) Stephen Douglas' running mate for the northern wing of the Democratic Party, Johnson had been both a Governor of and Senator from Georgia. After the 1860 election, he became a Senator in the Confederacy, despite opposing secession and then a US Senator, though, like Graham he was never seated. He then served as a circuit court judge until his death.
#39 Nathaniel Macon (1824) Macon was a replacement candidate for Vice-President when William Campbell withdrew. He had been Speaker of the House 15 years earlier, but had later moved to the Senate where he would remain after his failed run for the VP seat. He was later President pro tempore of the Senate.
Nomination was during career high point
#38 Fielding L. Wright (1948) Strom Thurmond's States Rights Party running mate in 1948, Fielding Wright returned to his office as Governor of Mississippi until he was term-limited out of office. He returned to the practice of law in 1952 and made another run for Governor, but finished third in the 1955 Democratic primary, thus missing the runoff. He died the next spring.
#37 Charles W. Bryan (1924) The brother of William Jennings Bryan (making them the only brothers to be nominated for President and Vice-President), Bryan was the running mate of John W. Davis on the 1924 Democratic ticket. In order to run for VP, Bryan did not run for re-election as Governor of Nebraska. He did run, unsuccessfully, in 1826 and 1828 and then won and retained the office in 1830 and 1832. He then served as Mayor of Lincoln, a job he'd held previously in 1915-17 and made one last, unsuccessful, run for Governor in 1838.
#36 John W. Bricker (1944) Dewey's first running mate, Bricker was unable to run for Governor at the same time, but two years later he was elected to the Senate where he served for 12 years before losing the seat to Stephen Young in 1958.
#35 Burton K. Wheeler (1924) Democrat Wheeler was the running mate of Republican Robert La Follette, Sr. on the Progressive Party ticket. He returned to the senate where he served another 24 years before losing the 1946 primary to Leif Erikson (the less famous one).
#34 Joe Lieberman (2000) After missing the vice-presidency by only a few hundred votes in Florida, Lieberman remained in the Senate. He sought the Democratic Party nomination in 2004, but after starting out well in the polls, failed to win any delegates, mustering only a single 2nd place finish.. In 2006, he lost the Democratic primary to retain his Senate seat, but was able to run as an independent and keep it. He was reportedly John McCain's first choice for Vice-President on the 2008 Republican ticket, but was passed over for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. He chose not to run for his senate seat in 2012 and retired from politics. In 2017, he was reportedly considered as a replacement for James Comey as FBI director but then passed over.
#33 Jared Ingersoll (1812) - Ingersoll was DeWitt Clinton's running mate on the 1812 Democratic-Republican ticket (though in many ways it was really the Federalist ticket. It's complicated). He spent a decade as Pennsylvania's Attorney General before the nomination and another four years in that job afterward. He spent the last year of his life as the presiding judge on Philadelphia's district court.
#32 Whitelaw Reid (1892) Benjamin Harrison's 2nd VP nominee Reid had been his ambassador to France. 13 years later he became Teddy Roosevelt's ambassador to the UK and continued in that role under Taft until his death in 1912.
#31 Henry Lee (1832) Lee, an economist who never held office, was John Floyd's running mate on the Independent Democrat ticket in 1832. They won only 1 state, Floyd's home state of South Carolina. Following the election, Lee returned to his prior career as a writer and merchant.
#30 Arthur Sewell (1896) One of William Jennings Bryan's running mates in Bryan's first run, Sewell was a wealthy shipbuilder who went back to shipbuilding and being wealthy after his loss and then died a few years later. Often considered one of the worst nominees in history.
#29 Tim Kaine (2016) Following the shocking loss of the Clinton/Kaine ticket, Kaine returned to the Senate.
#28 John A. Logan (1884) - After losing the 1884 election with his running mate James G. Blaine by a little more than 1000 votes, Logan returned to the Senate where he served 2 more years before dying in his home in Columbia Heights in Washington, DC. Nearby Logan Circle is named for him.
#27 Charles L. McNary (1940) - At the time of his nomination he was Senate Minority Leader, a job he held until his death almost four year later in February 1944. Like Logan, had he been elected he would not have lived to serve out his term. His running mate Wendell Wilkie also would have died in office (Oct 1944), meaning that if they had beaten Roosevelt and Wallace, Sam Rayburn would have become President of the United States, though only for 3 months.
#26 George Washington Julian (1852, 1878) The Free Soil Party's vice-presidential candidate in 1852, Julian was a political newcomer at the time. He'd spent just four years in the Indiana state legislature as a Whig and a single term as a US Representative. He earned no electoral college votes in 1852, but makes this list because of 1878. After his loss in 1852, he joined the Republican Party and in 1860 he was returned to the House of Representatives where he served for 10 years before losing renomination. In 1872, now with the Liberal Republican party, he received 5 electoral votes for Vice-President when the party's presidential nominee Horace Greeley died between the election and the electoral college vote. He finished his public career, now as a Democrat, by serving for four years as the surveyor general of New Mexico.
#25 Nathan Sanford (1824) Sanford, the former NY Senator and current Chancellor of New York was re-elected to the Senate 2 years after his loss in 1824. He served six more years in the Senate before retiring from politics.
#24 Estes Kefauver (1956) After having in the 1952 Presidential nomination taken from him and finishing 2nd in 1956, Kefauver beat out John F. Kennedy for the vice-presidential nomination, but the ticket lost to Eisenhower/ Nixon. Though early polling showed him the favorite for the 1960 Democratic nomination for President, Kefauver chose not to run for a 3rd time. He spent the last 7 years of his life in the Senate.
#23 John Sparkman (1952) Adlai Stevenson's running mate in 1952, he was not chosen for the 1956 ballot, in part because he signed the "Southern Manifesto" and Tennessee's Senators Estes Kefauver and Albert Gore, Sr. had not. Sparkmand nonetheless served another 26 years in the Senate, chairing 3 committees, before retiring in 1979 as the longest serving senator in Alabama history.
#22 John Sargeant (1832) Henry Clay's Republican running mate in 1832, Sargeant had twice been voted out of Congress and was out of office when nominated. He returned to the practice of law, but 4 years later was returned to Congress for a 3rd time. He was president of the Pennsylvania constitutional convention in 1838 and then resigned from Congress in 1841. He turned down cabinet and diplomatic positions and was nearly nominated to be Clay's running mate again in 1844.
Career Peaked after Nomination
#21 Francis Granger (1836) Granger was in the house when he was named the nominee of the northern part of the Whig Party in 1836. He had to give up his house seat to run in that election. He came in 2nd in the Electoral College, but since Virginia's electors refused to vote for Richard Johnson, the race had to be decided in the country's only contingent election for Vice-President, which he lost. Later, he was reelected to the House two more times before serving for 6 months as Postmaster General (a job his father held for a longer time than anyone else in U.S. history). He was then elected to congress again in a special election before leaving elected office to become a party leader.
#20 Rufus King (1804 and 1808) The only two-time loser of the Vice-Presidency on this list, King went on from being the bottom half of the losing Federalist ticket with Pinkney to being the top half in 1816 (and 1812, though he was never officially the party's nominee, which had none that year). In doing so he became the only person to run on four major party tickets without winning once. He later returned to the Senate and was again made Minister to Great Britain - jobs he'd held prior to 1804.
#19 Charles Coatsworth Pinkney (1800) The first of five people to lose the election for Vice-President and then go on to win their party's nomination for President, Pinkney was the Federalist party's nominee in 1804 and 1808 (losing both times).
#18 Charles Francis Adams (1848) The son and grandson of presidents, Charles Francis Adams was practically royalty when he ran for vice-president on the Free Soil ticket in 1848, but his political experience was limited to the Massachusetts state legislature. 10 years after his failed run for VP, Adams was elected to the US House from his father's district. After being re-elected, he resigned to serve as Minister to the United Kingdom for 7 years and was later the U.S. arbiter of the "Alabama claims."
#17 Joseph Taylor Robinson (1928) At the time of his nomination, Robinson was Senate Minority leader, but in 1933, following his loss, he was elevated to Majority Leader when the Democrats took control of the Senate. Together with FDR he led in the creation of much of the New Deal, until he was found dead in 1937 in his apartment across the street from the Senate.
#16 Sarah Palin (2008) Sure to be a controversial choice, but it's hard not to view Palin's career as having gone up after her nomination. Not long after losing, she resigned as the Governor of Alaska and became a media personality with numerous public speaking, on-air pundit and reality TV show opportunities which have paid her quite well. Though she has had much success as endorser of candidates, most notably of 2010 tea party candidates, and teased a White House run in 2012, she has not sought office again. But, she remains a popular figure and could still move up this list. In a Trump presidency is a cabinet appointment so unlikely?
#15 Thomas E. Watson (1896) Watson was William Jennings Bryan's running mate on the Populist ticket in 1896 (Sewall (#29) was his nominee on the Democratic ticket). Watson became the Populist party candidate for president in 1904, and then in 1920, after rejoining the Democratic Party, was elected to the Senate where he served until his death 2 years later.
#14 Francis P. Blair, Jr. (1868) Blair was a former Republican congressman and Union General when he was chosen as the Democratic nominee for Vice-President. Blair is the odd vice-presidential candidate believed to have cost his party the election, in his case because of the stark racist nature of his campaign speeches. Nonetheless, two years after that loss, he was elected to the United States Senate to fill a seat made empty via resignation. Less than 2 years later he was paralyzed by a stroke and as a result lost election to a full term in 1873. As an act of charity, he was appointed state superintendent of insurance to provide him with an income, and then died in 1875.
#13 Hiram Johnson (1912) Teddy Roosevelt's running mate on the Progressive Party ticket, Johnson remained the Governor of California until the end of his term. He was re-elected in 1914 and then ran successfully for the Senate in 1916 where he would remain until his death in 1945. He switched to the Republican Party and in 1920 sought the party's nomination for President, finishing third at the Convention (and 6th for Vice-President). He finished 3rd again in 1924. In the Senate he was an influential leader who crossed party lines to help FDR pass much of the New Deal.
#12 Edmund Muskie (1968) Senator Muskie emerged from the losing 1968 campaign in which he was the Democrats Vice-Presidential nominee as a popular politician and the leading candidate for the party's nomination. He won both the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries (in the newly formed primary system) but as a result of a letter, later discovered to be a forgery created by the Nixon campaign, in which Muskie was accused of making disparaging remarks about French-Canadians and of the press conference, in which it appeared to some in the press that Muskie had shed a tear (he claimed it was melting snow since it was held outside in a snow storm), his presidential campaign collapsed. In 1980 he became Secretary of State, and filled that role until the end of President Carter's term in 1981.
#11 Lloyd Bentson (1988) The Texas Senator lost the Vice-Presidency in 1988, but - due to Texas law - was able to run for, and keep, his Senate seat. Four years later he was tapped by Bill Clinton as the Secretary of the Treasury where he served for nearly two years before retiring.
#10 George J. Pendleton (1864) Rep. Pendleton had a bad year in 1864. He was on the bottom half of the losing presidential ticket and he lost his house seat too. He then proceeded to lose a race for his old house seat in 1866, his party's presidential nomination in 1868 (after leading for the first 15 ballots), and governor of Ohio in 1869. In 1878, after 14 years out of office, he was elected to the United States Senate, where he led passage of the Pendleton Act that ended the spoils system. This law was unpopular among members of his party and cost him re-election but he was appointed Envoy to Germany when his term was completed, a job he served in until shortly before his death.
#8 Frank Knox (1936) One of Teddy Roosevelt's former Rough Riders, Knox had never held office when he became Alf Landon's running mate in 1936. As an internationalist and a supporter of a strong military, Franklin Roosevelt tapped him to be Secretary of the Navy in 1940 as he tried to build a bi-partisan coalition in preparation for war. Knox served through most of the war - until his death in April 1944.
#7 Aaron Burr (1796) Technically, Burr was a candidate for President in 1796 as there were no tickets or running mates, but it was the intention of the Democratic-Republican party that all but one elector would cast their votes for Jefferson and Burr. The other elector would vote for Jefferson and someone other than Burr, thus making Jefferson president and Burr vice-president. Both parties meant to use this strategy but it failed, resulting in the President and Vice-President being from opposite parties and it failed again in 1800 resulting in a tie between Jefferson and Burr. Nonetheless, after Burr lost in 1796 he continued his political career serving 2 years in the New York state assembly. In 1800 he was elected Vice-President, becoming one of only three people to win the Vice-Presidency on the 2nd try. And probably the only person to ever go from the state legislature to Vice-President. He was nearly elected president since he and Jefferson tied in the electoral college, forcing a Contingency Election, one of only two ever for the Presidency. This was "Peak Burr" on a rapid and tragic collapse. He quickly fell out of favor with President Jefferson and, when it was clear he would not be on the ballot, he ran for governor of New York in 1804, while still Vice-President, and lost. As a direct result of this loss he dueled and killed Alexander Hamilton and was charged with murder in both New Jersey and New York (though he was never tried). While still Vice-President mind you, he went into hiding. Things just kept getting worse, as he was charged and tried (wrongly, most people agree) with treason after leaving office. Found not guilty, he then had to flee the country for four years to avoid his creditors. Finally he was kicked out of England and returned to New York. At this point, his life turned around somewhat. He returned to the practice of law; found a second family; adopted two boys (one possibly his own); and ,at the age of 77, he remarried, this time to a wealthy widow 19 years younger than him (though they were separated only a few months later).
#6 Paul Ryan (2012) Mitt Romney's running mate and the first house member nominated since Ferraro, Ryan didn't have to risk his house seat to run. Three years after failing to become President of the Senate, he became Speaker of the House - the only failed VP to do so. In addition, he's likely to make the Presidential and Vice-Presidential short lists for years to come, so he has time to move up this list.
#5 Thomas A. Hendricks (1876) Hendricks was the Democratic Party's losing nominee in the controversial election of 1876. He left office as Governor of Indiana the following January and went into a state of semi-retirement. In 1880, the Democrats wanted to nominate him for vice-president again, but he declined for health reasons (he suffered a stroke and lost the use of one foot as a result. By 1882 he could no longer stand). In 1884, as a salute to the ticket of 1876 and to unify the party, he was again the party's nominee for vice-president, and this time he won. He is the last person to win the vice-presidency on the 2nd try. Unfortunately, he died in office only 8 months later and his death is often one reason attributed to Cleveland's loss in the 1888 contest. In that race, Cleveleand won more votes than his opponent, but lost the electoral college in part because he couldn't carry Hendrick's home state of Indiana. Cleveland lost Indiana by only ~2,400 votes.
#4 Bob Dole (1976) The losing half of the Ford-Dole ticket, Dole would go on to serve in the Senate for nearly 20 more years - and seek the Presidency in every open election for the rest of that time. He more success in the former than he did the latter. He became Senate Minority Leader in 1987 and Majority Leader in 1995. After finishing last (11th) among all declared candidates in the 1980 Republican Presidential Primary, he was the runner-up in 1988 and finally the party nominee in 1996. He resigned his seat in the Senate to run and though he was the last nominee to have served in World War II but he lost the race and went into retirement. He is the last failed VP to later be nominated for President.
#3 Earl Warren (1948) Warren was the Republican candidate for VP in 1948 as the bottom half of the "Dewey Defeats Truman" ticket. He remained governor of California and four years later made a run at the GOP presidential nomination coming in 3rd. In Eisenhower's first year, Chief Justice Fred Vinson died and Warren was tapped as his replacement. He's the only failed VP to serve on the Supreme Court. He as Chief Justice for 16 years and died five years after retiring.
#2 John Tyler (1836) In 1836, the newly-formed Whig Party was not organized enough to have a convention and settle on one ticket. Instead they ran at least five tickets with Tyler as VP on three of them. Nonetheless he only "won" three states. No candidate for VP won a majority that year and the VP had to be decided in a contingent election, but Tyler only finished 3rd and thus missed it. But in 1840, Tyler came back to fill in the bottom half of the "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" ticket that was swept into office, making Tyler the 2nd person to win the Vice-Presidency on his 2nd Try and the first since the Twelfth Amendment. His running mate Harrison was much older. Shortly after taking office he died of illness (though not from a cold caught during his inauguration as is so often stated) and Tyler became President. After leaving office he returned to public life as sponsor and chairman of the Virginia Peace Convention in Washington, DC that was called in an effort to avoid the Civil War. When War broke out anyway. Tyler served on the convention between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Confederate States of America that allowed Virginia to join, signed the Ordinance of Secession and was chosen as a delegate to the Provisional Confederate Conference, serving for five months before his death in 1862. He was also elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but died a few weeks before it's first session.
The Greatest Of All Time
#1 Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1920) FDR was by far the most successful failed VP ever, and there is hardly reason to believe he would be. At that point he'd won exactly one race, for the New York State Senate and served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy during World War I. A year after his loss he was stricken with polio. But in 1928 he was elected to the first of two terms as Governor of New York, a feat which on its own would place him around #7 on this list. Then, in 1932 he became the only failed VP to ever be elected President (Tyler ascended). And just to pile on, he did it 3 more times and is now ranked among the greatest American presidents. Of failed VPs, he is truly the GOAT.
It's hard to imagine how someone could unseat Roosevelt. Even if someone did the unprecedented and served 6 years as VP and 10 as President, that might not be enough. It would probably take a combination of 2 terms as President and many years as Speaker, Majority Leader or Justice. Perhaps Pope or Secretary-General might suffice. Maybe 5 Super Bowl wins. Maybe.
Of the living failed veeps, Ryan is young and still highly-regarded. He could move up this list. As could Kaine. Palin still has a chance too - though less likely. I see no comeback for Edwards and both Dole and Lieberman are done.