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Do Losing Presidential Candidates "Step Aside?"

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Mitt Romney told America this weekend that he would not run for president a third time in 2016; was his rationale persuasive?

mittromney11.jpgOne of the takeaways from Mitt Romney's appearance on Meet the Press last Sunday was his attempt to convince the nation - and perhaps the Republican Party in particular - that he was not interested in running for president for a third consecutive cycle in 2016.

Media reports in recent weeks have indicated notable Republican donors are sending out feelers for another Romney bid in two years.

The former Massachusetts governor addressed this issue and avoided the usual murky language of politicians who are seriously considering a run for office, such as "I have no plans to run for president at this time" or "I am not currently seeking my party's nomination."

Instead, the 2012 GOP nominee said this:

"I'm not running for president. I think by and large people who lose a presidential race, well, they step aside."

The first sentence is direct and Romney's relatively low profile over the last year, compared to other rumored 2016 GOPers (like officeholders Rand Paul, Scott Walker etc.) suggests he is being truthful, even though a more definitive answer would have been, "I will never run for president again."

When deconstructing the second sentence - that losing candidates 'step aside' - Romney's rationale for not running in two years is accurate if he is specifically talking about presidential nominees: since World War II, there have been nearly two-dozen presidential hopefuls who did run for president again for a second (or third) time - including Romney himself.

However, only a small handful of unsuccessful major party nominees have suited up for another run in a subsequent cycle.

Since the birth of the modern two-party system in 1828, four have done so successfully on their second try: Democrat Andrew Jackson (1824, 1828), Whig William Harrison (1836, 1840), Democrat Grover Cleveland (1888, 1892 - after winning in 1884), and Republican Richard Nixon (1960, 1968).

Others have failed as a multiple cycle nominee such as Henry Clay (1824, 1844), Democrat William Jennings Bryan (1896, 1900, 1908), Republican Thomas Dewey (1944, 1948), and Democrat Adlai Stevenson (1952, 1956).

(Democrat Martin Van Buren also followed up his 1840 loss to William Harrison with an 1848 run as the Free Soil nominee).

Many others have lost presidential bids - falling short of winning their party's nomination or otherwise - only to come back to campaign again in subsequent cycles.

The list of names from World War II on is significant including Republicans Wendell Willkie, Harold Stassen, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, Pat Buchanan, Steve Forbes, Lamar Alexander, John McCain, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney and Democrats Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Eugene McCarthy, George Wallace, Scoop Jackson, Jerry Brown, Jesse Jackson, Dick Gephardt, Al Gore, Joe Biden, Dennis Kucinich, and John Edwards.

Another Democrat seemingly poised to be added to that list in 2016 is Hillary Clinton, though if and when the former Secretary of State and 2008 presidential candidate will make such an announcement is the million dollar question this cycle.

And whether Romney will go down in the books in 2016 as a Bob Dole (and not run), a Wendell Willkie (run again and fail), or a Thomas Dewey (run again and claim the GOP nod for a second straight cycle) will also be quite evident in the near future.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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