Nancy Pelosi's Accurate: Successful Second Acts Are Rare in Presidential Politics

As spring comes upon us and John McCain comes nearer to selecting a running mate, the coal-to-diamond pressure will continue to build on our Democratic candidates to settle the dust, place unifying the party above all else, and leave one candidate to abandon years of strategizing agonizingly close to fruition.  

When lost in the dizzying cyclone of punditry, majestic rhetoric, and our projected realities, it is easy to forget that not only is winning the nomination extremely difficult but a long view of history illustrates that nominees have virtually one chance to achieve the ultimate seat of power.  Successful second acts are rare in presidential politics.

We are currently slogging through the only stretch of the campaign season without an impending debate, caucus, or primary.  With the media cycles beginning to mine for narratives, focus is slowly shifting as to how the Democratic Party will begin to cauterize the recent wounds and create a ticket to rally behind.  

One of the media stories beginning to gain traction is that Senator Clinton has privately accepted the realities that have existed for several weeks and will begin to work behind the scenes to solidify herself as the only real choice for Vice President while being prepared for a colossal meltdown by Senator Obama.  Hence, we would be left with the so-called "Dream Ticket".

As the calls for unity grow increasingly fervent, and the MSM begins to call for Senator Clinton to accept reality and "settle" for the bottom of the ticket, it seems worthwhile to empathize with her position and understand a simple historically-proven fact:  if they do indeed run together--and if Clinton is the nominee, Senator Obama WILL be the vice president nominee; if Senator Obama wins, Senator Clinton stands a strong chance at being the nominee--then this will almost certainly be the one and only shot either will ever have.  

In this history of either the Democratic or Republican party, there has only been three--that's it--examples of a successful second act in presidential politics:  

In 1876 Thomas Hendricks lost as a VP candidate to come back and win as a VP candidate in 1884.  (his reward was to die 9 months into office)

In 1920 FDR lost as a VP candidate but came back 12 years later to win as a presidential candidate.

In 1960 Richard Nixon lost as a Presidential candidate but came back 8 years later to win as a presidential candidate.  (it's important to remember, though, he had already been an elected VP with Ike.  Plus, how did this promotion work out for him?)

That's it, folks.  

To the best of my knowledge no other losing nominee made it back to the big stage and won, despite some rigorous efforts by candidates.  Thomas Dewey lost in consecutive elections in the 1940s as the presidential nominee.  William Jennings Bryant lost three times as the top of his ticket. So it does matter who is at the top of the ticket and we should at least have a degree of empathy of why our candidates are fighting like hell because this is likely his or her only shot and being President.  Ever.

Lastly, it should be disclosed that I am a supporter of Senator Obama and I also understand that there is the larger perspective of winning the election and achieving our dreams of a progressive, inspirational administration.  But when I force myself to empathize with Senator Obama and Senator Clinton's personal situation, I have a better understanding of how each must have a nagging understanding that they wake up each day one inch higher to the Sword of Damocles

Tags: Decision 2008, Dream Ticket, Election 2008, Hillary, Joint Ticket, obama, Pelosi (all tags)



pelosi disregarded the dream ticket again

it's almost as though she wants the vp slot.  it wouldn't seem like it, but i'm starting to wonder.

by Doug Tuttle 2008-04-09 09:45AM | 0 recs
Andrew Jackson

How about Andrew Jackson in the election of 1824 losing and then later becoming the 7th President? son

by DreamsOfABlueNation 2008-04-09 10:38AM | 0 recs
Re: Andrew Jackson

Thank you for this observation; I would only point out that Andrew Jackson did not belong to either the Democratic or Republican party, as the post specifies.  He belonged, ironically enough, to the Democratic-Republican Party which disbanded shortly after Jackson's election.

Thanks for this point.

by Swedescott 2008-04-09 11:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Andrew Jackson

to add to the point, briefly, I restricted my historical perspective to the modern political parties to try to maintain a loose semblence of modernity, and therefore (hopefully) some relevance to today's political climate.

by Swedescott 2008-04-09 11:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Nancy Pelosi's Accurate:

Nancy Pelosi's Accurate what?

by gaf 2008-04-09 12:11PM | 0 recs
Does Grover Cleveland Count?

He lost Al Gore style (won popular vote) in 1888 but then came back to win in 1892.

by professor 2008-04-09 12:17PM | 0 recs


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