Few former presidents have run for their old jobs – or anything else – after leaving office – Pew Research Center

November 18, 2022

Read our research on: Election 2022 | Economy | Abortion | Russia | COVID-19
Read our research on: Election 2022 | Economy | Abortion | Russia | COVID-19
Regardless of whether he succeeds or not, Donald Trump’s decision to seek the White House again in 2024 puts him among a small group of ex-presidents who have subsequently run for elective office.
Grover Cleveland is the only former president who has ever come back after being defeated for reelection to win a second nonconsecutive term. Cleveland, a Democrat from New York, won a narrow victory in 1884 but lost in the Electoral College in 1888 despite winning the popular vote. Cleveland was renominated in 1892 and decisively beat Benjamin Harrison – the man he had lost to four years earlier.
We consulted a number of presidential history sites in researching this post, including the White House Historical Association, the National Constitution Center and the University of Virginia’s Miller Center. Historical election results were taken from the University of California, Santa Barbara’s American Presidency Project.
Ulysses S. Grant served two full presidential terms from 1869 to 1877 and, despite urgings from some in the Republican Party, declined to seek what would have been an unprecedented third term in 1876. But four years later, he changed his mind and sought the Republican nomination again. Although he led the field for nearly the entire GOP convention, Grant couldn’t win over a majority of the delegates to secure the nomination and ultimately lost to James A. Garfield on the 36th ballot. (Grant’s third run was possible because the two-term limit for presidents was a tradition, rather than a rule, until Franklin D. Roosevelt won four straight elections between 1932 and 1944. The 22nd Amendment, limiting the president to two terms, was ratified in 1951.)
Herbert Hoover never quite got over his landslide loss to FDR in 1932. He made concerted efforts to rebuild his influence within the Republican Party and, he hoped, regain the presidency. After waging a behind-the-scenes battle for the GOP nomination in 1936 against Alf M. Landon (the ultimate Republican nominee), Hoover made a more overt effort in 1940. But although convention delegates seemed to receive Hoover warmly, there was little enthusiasm for actually nominating him again: The former president received just 17 votes on the first ballot, far behind the leading candidates, and was never truly a contender.
Three other former presidents have sought to regain their old offices, all on third-party tickets and all unsuccessfully:
In addition, after wrapping up the Republican presidential nomination in 1980, Ronald Reagan seriously considered picking former President – and former Vice President – Gerald Ford as his running mate. But Ford reportedly was less than enthusiastic about returning to the VP spot, and Reagan eventually cooled on the idea, naming George H.W. Bush instead.
Four other ex-presidents had post-presidential political careers, of varying lengths and degrees of success:
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