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George McGovern's Post Presidential Election Half-Life Was 3rd Longest in History

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Only Strom Thurmond (1948, 54 years) and Alf Landon (1936, 50 years) lived longer after losing a presidential election

georgemcgovern10.jpgThe death of George McGovern last weekend marked the end of a long life of a former Democratic U.S. Senator and presidential nominee.

McGovern - then a two-term senator from South Dakota - was on the losing end of one of the biggest blow-outs in U.S. presidential electoral history, carrying only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia and 17 electoral votes as Richard Nixon easily won reelection in 1972.

McGovern would serve a third term before losing handily by 18.8 points to Republican James Abdnor in his quest for a fourth term in 1980 and embark on another (short-lived) presidential campaign in 1984.

All told, McGovern's 39+ years on earth after the 1972 presidential election is the third longest span recorded by any failed presidential nominee who carried at least one state in U.S. history.

The longest such post-election tenure is held by Strom Thurmond, who ran as a State's Rights candidate in 1948 and lived another 54 years before his death in June 2003 at the age of 100.

Thurmond would finish his term as governor of South Carolina after losing the 1948 election and later go on to serve more than 47 years in two stints in the U.S. Senate.

The longest mark for a failed major party presidential nominee is held by Republican Alf Landon.

Landon won only two states (Maine, Vermont) and eight electoral votes while Franklin Roosevelt cruised to a second term in 1936.

After finishing his term as Governor of Kansas in January 1937, Landon never ran for political office again until his death 50 years later at the age of 100 in 1987 (although his daughter, Nancy Kassebaum, won three terms in the U.S. Senate from the Sunflower State).

Thurmond, Landon, and McGovern are of course unusual examples of relatively young presidential nominees (ages 47, 49, and 50 respectively) living particularly long lives after their failed candidacies.

The average number of years lived by a failed presidential nominee over the last 200+ years has been just 18.

Nine other candidates lived more than 30 years since their failed bids: Democrat James Cox (1920, 36 years), Republican Barry Goldwater (1964, 33 years), Republican Richard Nixon (1960, 33 years), Republican John Frémont (1856, 33 years), Democrat Jimmy Carter (1980, 32 years and counting), Republican Herbert Hoover (1932, 31 years), Republican Charles Evan Hughes (1916, 31 years), Republican Gerald Ford (1976, 30 years), and Democrat John Davis (1924, 30 years).

Three failed presidential candidates did not live even one year after their loss on Election Day:

· Democrat Horace Greely died on November 29, 1872 - less than one month after the Election of 1872 in which he carried six states and 66 electoral votes as Ulysses Grant cruised to a second term.

· Democrat Stephen Douglas died on June 3, 1861 - just seven months after the 1860 election in which Abraham Lincoln won with a plurality of the vote from a deeply divided electorate.

· Progressive Robert La Follette died on June 18, 1925 - approximately seven and a half months after the Election of 1924 in which he carried his home state of Wisconsin and its 13 electoral votes as Republican Calvin Coolidge won in a landslide.

Post-Election Years Lived by Failed Presidential Candidates

Losing candidate
Age at Election
Year of Election
Year of Death
Years lived post election
Strom Thurmond
47
1948
2003
54
Alf Landon
49
1936
1987
50
George McGovern
50
1972
2012
39
James Cox
50
1920
1957
36
Barry Goldwater
55
1964
1998
33
Richard Nixon
47
1960
1994
33
John Fremont
43
1856
1890
33
Jimmy Carter*
56
1980
2012
32
Herbert Hoover
58
1932
1964
31
Charles Evans Hughes
54
1916
1948
31
Gerald Ford
63
1976
2006
30
John Davis
51
1924
1955
30
George Wallace
49
1968
1998
29
Thomas Jefferson
53
1796
1826
29
William J. Bryan
36
1896
1925
28
Walter Mondale*
56
1984
2012
28
Henry Clay
47
1824
1852
27
Thomas Dewey
42
1944
1971
26
John Adams
65
1800
1826
25
William J. Bryan
40
1900
1925
24
William Mangum
44
1836
1861
24
Michael Dukakis*
64
1988
2012
24
Thomas Dewey
46
1948
1971
22
Alton Parker
52
1904
1926
21
Martin Van Buren
57
1840
1862
21
George McClellan
40
1864
1885
20
Andrew Jackson
57
1824
1845
20
Charles Pinckney
58
1804
1825
20
George H.W. Bush*
68
1992
2012
20
James Weaver
59
1892
1912
19
Grover Cleveland
51
1888
1908
19
Henry Clay
55
1832
1852
19
John Q. Adams
61
1828
1848
19
William H. Taft
55
1912
1930
17
Horatio Seymour
58
1868
1886
17
Millard Fillmore
56
1856
1874
17
Lewis Cass
66
1848
1866
17
William J. Bryan
48
1908
1925
16
Charles Pinckney
62
1808
1825
16
Bob Dole*
73
1996
2012
16
Al Smith
54
1928
1944
15
Daniel Webster
54
1836
1852
15
DeWitt Clinton
43
1812
1828
15
John Breckenridge
39
1860
1875
14
Winfield Scott
66
1852
1866
13
Adlai Stevenson
52
1952
1965
12
Al Gore*
52
2000
2012
12
Rufus King
61
1816
1827
10
Hubert Humphrey
57
1968
1978
9
Samuel Tilden
62
1876
1886
9
William Crawford
52
1824
1834
9
Adlai Stevenson
56
1956
1965
8
Benjamin Harrison
59
1892
1901
8
James Blaine
54
1884
1893
8
John Bell
64
1860
1869
8
John Kerry*
60
2004
2012
8
Henry Clay
69
1844
1852
7
Teddy Roosevelt
54
1912
1919
6
Winfield Hancock
56
1880
1886
5
William H. Harrison
63
1836
1841
4
John McCain*
72
2008
2012
4
Wendell Wilkie
48
1940
1944
3
Hugh White
63
1836
1840
3
William Wirt
60
1832
1834
1
Robert La Follette
69
1924
1925
0
Horace Greeley
61
1872
1872
0
Stephen Douglas
47
1860
1861
0
* Still living. A year in the far right column is defined as a full 12 month-period after Election Day. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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