Friday, February 8, 2013

10 People who never stood a chance at becoming President, Part 1: 1800 to 1900

10. Charles C. Pinckney

Charles C. Pinckney received the Federalist Party's nomination for president twice (first in 1804, and then again in 1808), and in both presidential elections he did terribly. In fact in the 1804 election he only got 27.2% of the popular vote and 14 electoral votes, and in the 1808 election, he only did a little bit better, getting 32.4% of the popular vote, and 47 electoral votes.

9. Rufus King

Rufus King is noted as being the last Federalist Party candidate to run for president. He also did horribly in the election of 1816, with only getting 30.9% of the popular vote, and 34 electoral votes. This election is also noted as basically being the death blow to the Federalist Party.

8. William H. Crawford

The election of 1824 was probably the strangest presidential election in United States history, mainly because the winner had to be decided by congress (because no one won the majority of the electoral votes, which a candidate is required to win in order to become president) and all four candidates were members of the Democratic-Republican Party.

Out of all four candidates, William H. Crawford did second to worst (Henry Clay did even worse then him). Crawford only got 11.2% of the popular vote (which is worst then what Clay did), and 41 electoral votes (which is better then what Clay did).

7. William Wirt

Back in the early to mid 1800's Freemasonry was strongly opposed (especially in New England states) and actually led to the creation of a single-issue party known as the Anti-Masonic Party in 1828.

In the election of 1832 the Anti-Masonic Party fielded it's first (and only) major candidate for the presidency, William Wirt. While he did manage to win the state of Vermont and it's seven electoral votes, in the election in general he did awful, only getting 7.1% of the popular vote.

6. Hugh L. White

The election on 1836 was another weird election. While the Democratic Party fielded one candidate, Martin Van Buren, the newly formed Whig Party had four candidates: William H. Harrison, Daniel Webster, Willie P. Mangum, and Hugh L. White.

Hugh L. White came in third in the election, winning only 9.7% of the popular vote, and 26 electoral votes. Of course that is better than what Webster and Mangum did, but worse then what Harrison and Van Buren did (who won that election).

5. John P. Hale

The Free Soil Party was formed in 1848 to oppose the expansion of slavery within the United States, and had even fielded two major candidates in two presidential elections. The first was former president Martin Van Buren in 1848, the second was John P. Hale in 1852.

Both candidates did terribly in both elections, and in Hale's case, he only got about 4.9% of the popular vote, and no electoral votes.

4. Stephen A. Douglas

The election of 1860 of another strange and complex one, fielding four major candidates, including two Democratic Party candidates.

While the main Democratic Party candidate, Stephen Douglas, with only 12 electoral votes, came in forth in terms of electoral votes (John C. Breckinridge, the other Democratic Party candidate came in second with 72 electoral votes, and John Bell, the Constitutional Union Party candidate, came in third with 39 electoral votes) he did come in second in the popular vote at 29.5%.

3. James B. Weaver

In the election of 1892, a new third party, most commonly known as the Populist Party, fielded a major presidential candidate, James B. Weaver.

While Weaver did manage to get 22 electoral votes, he only got 8.5% of the popular vote.

This is also the only presidential election that the Populist Party managed to get any electoral votes.

2. George B. McClellan

In the election of 1864, General George B. McClellan actually ran against his president and commander-and-chief, Abraham Lincoln, as the Democratic Party's candidate (it should be noted that he didn't resign from the army until the election day, November 8).

While General McClellan did win 45% of the popular vote, he only won 21 electoral votes.

1. Horace Greeley

The election of 1872 is the only election in history in which two Republicans ran for president: President Ulysses S. Grant, and Horace Greeley.

While Greenly got only 66 electoral votes and 43.8% of the popular vote, it wouldn't have mattered if he had won the election or not anyways, because he never would have become president. It wasn't that he never stood a chance of becoming president, it's that he died on November 29, 1872, before the Electoral College could even cast their votes.


  1. This is a great post, but your entry on Rufus King might need some clarification.

    Rufus King did not really "run" for President. No one did, from the Federalist party, in 1816. He made no attempt to gain votes, did not campaign, issued no platform, and denied he wanted the job. The Federalists in 1816 were already crumbling after their disastrous missteps during the War of 1812 (for instance, trying to split New England off from the Union). In 1816 they did not even have any sort of national organization.

    Years before the election it was clear that the Democratic-Republicans were going to win, and more than a year before it seemed likely that Monroe would be their candidate. A few die-hard Federalists in some northeastern states basically said, "Well, this sucks, another Democratic president, but shouldn't we at least put up some token resistance?" So the state leaders tried to find a candidate who would not forbid them from floating his name as a protest vote. They had a tough time doing so, because nobody wanted to be on the sinking ship of the Federalist Party, but Rufus King, being at the end of his career and a little dotty to begin with, at least didn't object to his name being mentioned at Federalist state-level caucuses as a pseudo-candidate.

    It might be more accurate to say that Monroe ran essentially unopposed in 1816, but some people did vote for Rufus King instead. 1816 was one of those weird elections that bears little resemblance to the way Presidential elections are conducted today.

    1. Wow! I didn't know that the Federalist Party was falling apart by then, but didn't know they were that bad off. Thank you for the info, Sean!