Learn About these Famous Presidential Losers

It seems that the famous proverb, “winning is not everything,” might be true if we follow the lives of some of the well-known US losing presidential candidates. There is always a considerable hue and cry about the ones that win the elections and occupy The Office for a good four years. Of course, the papers do not leave any stone unturned regarding uncovering all the candidates’ moves during the campaign; once the elections are completed, there is not much said about the losing contestants. 

However, if we shed some light on the lives of then losing presidential candidates, we would know how much they have done to change the course of the US nation. Some have led their parties to new national development methods, while others have rightfully tackled gender, racial, or ethnic issues. 

Let’s take a look at the accomplishments and lives of the presidential losers who have done wonders in their lives. Losing the presidential elections did not halt their inner capabilities to achieve something. Let us take a look without further ado. 

Famous Presidential Losers 

1. Thomas Jefferson 

Thomas Jefferson 

Thomas Jefferson was the first-ever candidate to lose the US presidential elections in 1796. Interestingly, under the elections rules at that time, the loser had to serve as the vice president. Jefferson suffered losing the elections by mere three electoral votes.

An appalling irony about Jefferson serving as a vice president to the then-president John Adams was that they both had opposite beliefs. Adams had repeatedly termed his opponent as a coward, atheist, and anarchist during the campaign. So, the two had to serve together while behaving like cutthroats who believed in totally contradictory ways of governance. 

The best part about Jefferson’s presidential story is that he ran his election campaign for the next term of the US presidency in 1800 and won! He became the first-ever loser to become the president the following term.

2. Stephen Douglas 

Stephen Douglas 

Stephen Douglas may have run and lost the presidential elections in 1860 to Lincoln, but he continued to be an essential part of his government till the end. Douglas founded the very concepts of the Democratic Party and acted as one of the defenders of Lincoln. 

Douglas brought the Democrats and Republicans on the same page regarding the war and chanted to save the union above everything else. He proved how even after losing, his importance and value never faltered. 

He was the force that kept the Democratic Party unwavering during and after the war. His famous lines from a speech delivered in Illinois are remembered by many. He said:

Do not allow the mortification growing out of defeat in a partisan struggle… (to) convert you from patriots to traitors against your native land,”

3. Al Smith 

Al Smith 

Al Smith lost the elections of 1928. Though he did not make it to The Office, Smith is attributed to several impactful social and political changes in US history. Besides the fact that Smith was a New Yorker, his biggest impediment that also cost him the presidency was that he was Roman Catholic. It was a significant step towards political change in US history that a Roman Catholic candidate was nominated to run for the presidency. 

As a governor, Smith did more than any presidential candidates had done. He led a team of investigators to examine the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory thoroughly and moved legislation for safer workplace facilities upon discovering the matter. 

With Robert Moses as his aide, Smith also established the nation’s first-ever state park system that transformed the urban landscape of New York City was good. The most significant and impactful change resulting from Smith’s loss to Hoover was the unwavering respect and acceptance of the Catholics in the voting system. 

4. George McGovern

George McGovern

Losing to President Nixon in 1972, George McGovern did what none other could do. He changed the course of nomination for candidates of the Democratic Party. He strived to have women, gays, and racial minorities included in the party’s nominating process. It was the first time that any contesting party of the US embraced minorities, women, and gays. 

He was also known as the man who could not care less about his words, causing him to lose his presidential race. He called the Vietnam War the most murderous bombardment of deaths on helpless people. Upon realizing that this statement might cost him his win of The Office, he just shrugged his shoulders and acted indifferently.

5. Walter Mondale 

Walter Mondale 

There is nothing more to Mondale’s credit for losing the US presidential elections other than bringing women to the top and making them visible. His selection of Rep. Geraldine Ferraro as his vice president was the boost that caused ripples in the image of a woman as a non-serious contender for US politics. 

Ferraro’s presence in Mondale’s campaign was, evidently, not enough to win him the Office. Regardless of this drawback that might have chipped in to contribute to his loss, Mondale’s loss opened the gates for women to step into the country’s political process.  

6. Michael Dukakis 

Michael Dukakis 

After a staggering loss to H. W. Bush in the 1988 presidential elections, Dukakis secured his position as a prominent faculty member at Northeastern University. He fervently taught political science and quickly made his place. He also accepted to be a part of a visiting faculty of political science at Loyola Marymount University and UCLA. 

His loss was profound, yet its impact was more prominent. He had given his opponent a rough run in New York, the second major electoral state at that time. During his campaign, he was renowned for changing the fate of Massachusetts for good. The economic revolution that transformed Massachusetts and put it in amongst the top states of the US is fairly credited to Michael Dukakis.

7. Hillary Rodham Clinton 

No one could have been more prepared than Hillary Rodham Clinton for running the presidential elections in 2008. She had been the First Lady during her husband’s tenure as a president and had her significant life achievements were enough to take her through the win. The biggest bet to carry win her the presidency was that she was the first woman to run for the president of the US. However, her stance of the Iraq War opposed to what the winning president Obama chanted, may have contributed to her loss. 

She supported the Iraq War, and Obama’s “change” outlook spread like wildfire among the ones preferring peace. Nevertheless, her defeat did not affect how the public or president Barack Obama regarded her. She was asked to accept the role of Secretary of State.


Reading interesting stories and life events of the losing candidates of the US presidential elections opens several avenues for critical thinking. One ponders how losing did not deter these influential people from changing the nation they love and are ready to serve. A position as powerful as a US president is sure a significant loss to endure. However, not letting that loss come into the way of serving the people of America is what we learn from these stories. These are inspirational stories that we do not hear often.