These Losing Presidential Candidates Won The Party Nomination Again

Major Parties Don't Always Shun White House Hopefuls Who Have Failed Once Before

Losing a presidential election is always devastating, often embarrassing, and occasionally career-ending. But eight losing presidential candidates actually came back from defeat one year to win a major-party presidential nomination a second time – and half of them won the race for the White House.

01
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Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon after receiving the 1968 presidential nomination at the Republican National Convention in Miami. Washington Bureau/Getty Images

Nixon first won the Republican presidential nomination in 1960, but lost that year's election to John F. Kennedy. The GOP nominated Nixon again in 1968, and the former vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Democratic Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey to become president. 

Nixon is one of the most recognized of the failed presidential candidates who won the nomination a second time and were elevated to the White House, because of how his presidency ended.

02
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Adlai Stevenson

Adlai Stevenson
Adlai Stevenson. Getty Images

Stevenson first won the Democratic presidential nomination in 1952, but lost that year's election to Republican Eisenhower. The Democratic Party nominated Stevenson again in 1956 in what was a rematch of the presidential election four years earlier. The outcome was the same: Eisenhower beat Stevenson a second time.

Stevenson actually sought the presidential nomination a third time, but the Democrats selected Kennedy instead.  

03
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Thomas Dewey

Thomas Dewey
Failed presidential candidate Thomas Dewey. Getty Images

Dewey first won the Republican presidential nomination in 1944, but lost that year's election to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The GOP nominated Dewey again in 1948, but the former New York governor lost that year's presidential election to Democrat Harry S. Truman.

04
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William Jennings Bryan

William Jennings Bryan
Failed presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan. Getty Images

Bryan, who served in the House of Representatives and as secretary of State, was nominated for president three separate times by the Democratic Party: 1896, 1900 and 1908. Bryan lost each of the three presidential elections, to William McKinley the first two elections and finally to William Howard Taft.

05
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Henry Clay

Henry Clay
Henry Clay ran for president three times and lost three times. Getty Images

Clay, who represented Kentucky in both the Senate and House of Representatives, was nominated for president three times by three different parties, and lost all three times. Clay was the unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Democratic Republican Party in 1824, the National Republican Party in 1832, and of the Whig Party in 1844.

Clay's defeat in 1824 came amid a crowded field, and not one candidate won enough electoral votes, so the top three vote getters went before the House of Representatives, and John Quincy Adams emerged as the winner. Clay lost to Andrew Jackson in 1832 and James K. Polk in 1844.

06
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William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison. Getty Images

Harrison, a senator and representative from Ohio, was first nominated for president by the Whigs in 1836 but lost that year's election to Democrat Martin Van Buren. In a rematch four years later, in 1840, Harrison won.

07
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Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson
President Andrew Jackson. Getty Images

Jackson, a representative and senator from Tennessee, first ran for president in the Democratic-Republican Party in 1824 but lost to Adams, thanks in part to Clay's lobbying to representatives in the House. Jackson was the Democratic nominee in 1828 and defeated Adams, and then beat Clay in 1832.

08
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Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
President Thomas Jefferson. Library of Congress

After President George Washington declined to run for a third term, Jefferson was the Democratic-Republican candidate for president in the election of 1796 but lost to Federalist John Adams. Jefferson won a rematch in 1800 to become the third president in United States history. 

Second Chances

When it comes to second chances in American politics, political parties and voters alike are fairly generous. Losing presidential candidates have re-emerged as a nominee and gone on to the White House, giving failed candidates hope that their second election attempts might be as successful as Richard Nixon, William Henry Harrison, Andrew Jackson, and Thomas Jefferson.