If you asked the average U.S. citizen to name ten presidents many might not be able to do it, so asking them to name ten presidential runners-up would be an even more difficult question. However, while people may not remember the losers of presidential elections very well, many of them played an important part in our national history in one way or another. The men who made this list are here because either their loss was historically significant or something about the time and place of their bids for the Oval Office is worth remembering. People may not remember losers but that does notmean they should be forgotten.
10: Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson lost his first attempt to win the White House running against John Adams but won his second bid and went on to become one of the more important presidents in U.S. history. Jefferson shows up on this list not because of anything unusual or historical about his loss but more because of what he went on to accomplish after losing his first attempt at the Oval Office.
9: Alf Landon
Alf Landon has the unfortunate distinction of having suffered the single most lop sided defeat in the history of the U.S. presidential election ever. Landon was the Republican Party’s nominee in the 1936 presidential election and his opponent was none other than Franklin Roosevelt. Aside from suffering such a lopsided defeat, what makes Alf Landon an interesting runner-up is the fact that he appears to have made no real effort to win the White House. Landon didn’t make a single campaign journey in the first two months of his selection by the Republican Party, and even then he traveled infrequently. While there is little doubt that he would have lost regardless of how much he campaigned, his actions make you wonder if he even really wanted to win in the first place.
8: Ralph Nader
Technically not a runner-up since he finished third in the popular vote and didn’t win a single electoral vote in the 2000 presidential election, Ralph Nader is on this list because of the effect he had. The 2000 presidential race was one of the closest in our history and Nader is widely considered to have been the reason Al Gore lost. The Green Party is largely populated by liberal voters and some of those voters who would have otherwise voted for Gore voted for Nader instead.These votes for Nader caused Gore to lose the vote in several key states and this of course led to the debacle in Florida.
7: John Quincy Adams
Most people know that John Quincy Adams was the sixth president of the United States, but what is less well known is that he bears the distinction of being the only presidential candidate of a major party to win only a single electoral vote. Adams ran against the wildly popular James Monroe and really never had a chance to begin with. Not only were the people of the U.S. avid supporters of Monroe, but the political establishment of the time was also firmly in Monroe’s corner. John Quincy Adams was more fortunate when he ran for election in 1824 becoming our nation’s seventh president.
6: George B. McClellan
George B. McClellan was the opponent of Abraham Lincoln in the 1864 election and as expected lost. What makes McClellan’s bid for the white house worth noting is that it not only happened while the civil war was still in full swing, but that he ran against Lincoln because McClellan believed his opponent was the reason for his tarnished reputation as a general.