4 Vice Presidents Who Ran for President and Lost

Being No. 2 doesn't guarantee you'll eventually become No. 1

One of the surest ways of being elected president of the United States is to first be elected vice president. The ascension of the vice president to the White House has been a natural progression in American political history.

More than a dozen vice presidents eventually went on to serve as president, whether through election or other means — the assassination or resignation of the commander-in-chief. 

But it hasn't always worked out that way. There are a handful of vice presidents who tried to get elected president and failed. The most recent incumbent vice president to fail was Democrat Al Gore, who lost the 2000 presidential election to Republican George W. Bush.

Vice President Al Gore Lost in 2000

Al Gore
Former vice presidential nominee Al Gore.

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Democrat Al Gore, who served two terms as vice president under President Bill Clinton, probably thought he had a lock on the White House given the booming economy.

And then along came one of the biggest scandals in modern political history. Whatever accomplishments Clinton and Gore would claim over the course of eight years were overshadowed by the president's affair with White House staffer Monica Lewinsky, a scandal that brought him closer to an impeachment conviction than any president since Andrew Johnson.

Gore won the popular vote but lost in electoral votes to Republican George W. Bush in what turned out to be the oddest presidential election in years. The contested race reached the U.S. Supreme Court, which decided in Bush's favor.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey Lost in 1968

Hubert Humphrey
Hubert Humphrey.

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Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey served under President Lyndon B. Johnson from 1965 through 1968. He won the party's presidential nomination that year.

Republican Richard Nixon, who served as vice president under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, defeated incumbent Democratic Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey. By winning in 1968, Nixon became one of eight presidents who had come back after losing a presidential race.   

Vice President Richard Nixon Lost in 1960

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

Before Nixon won the presidential election in 1968, he ran for the White House unsuccessfully in 1960. He was the vice president under Eisenhower when he faced Democrat John F. Kennedy and lost.

Vice President John Breckinridge 1860

John Breckenridge
John Breckenridge.

Encyclopaedia Britannica/Getty Images

John C. Breckenridge served as vice president under James Buchanan. He was nominated by the Southern Democrats to run for president in 1860, and faced Republican Abraham Lincoln and two other candidates.

Lincoln won the presidency that year.

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Murse, Tom. "4 Vice Presidents Who Ran for President and Lost." ThoughtCo, Feb. 16, 2021, thoughtco.com/vice-presidents-who-werent-elected-president-3367680. Murse, Tom. (2021, February 16). 4 Vice Presidents Who Ran for President and Lost. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/vice-presidents-who-werent-elected-president-3367680 Murse, Tom. "4 Vice Presidents Who Ran for President and Lost." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/vice-presidents-who-werent-elected-president-3367680 (accessed April 15, 2021).