Top 10 People Who Unsuccessfully Ran for United States President

Ever wonder what would've happened if Goldwater had beat Johnson in 1964? Ever wonder what would've happened if Gore had beat Bush in 2001? Well, here's the ten best people who unsuccessfully ran for president.
The Top Ten
1 Bernie Sanders (D) Bernie Sanders, a U.S. Senator from Vermont and a member of the Democratic Party, ran for president in 2016 and 2020 but did not secure the nomination. He is well-known for his progressive policies, including advocating for universal healthcare and free college tuition.

Sanders, who labeled himself a Democratic Socialist, was really more like a Social Democrat. He supported positions that many Nordic countries have successfully taken, such as implementing universal healthcare, making public college free, and implementing some sort of basic income. He lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton.

He is doing better in the 2020 primary. I don't think he should have lost the 2016 primary. Hillary was an awful neoliberal candidate that cost the Democrats an election for 4 years.

2 Robert Kennedy (D) Robert Kennedy, a Democratic senator from New York and former Attorney General, ran for the presidency in 1968 but was assassinated during the primary campaign. He was a vocal advocate for civil rights and social justice.

Bobby Kennedy ran for president with a platform similar to his brother's. He wished to extend civil rights, win the war in Vietnam, and oppose the spread of communism, among other things. He was probably the most popular candidate at the time and had the highest chance of victory. Unfortunately, he was assassinated before the race was over. Nixon ended up being the next president.

It's a shame. I say he was as good as JFK when it came to being a good person. He would've been great.

This was really unfortunate. He met the same fate as his brother before he could even win.

3 Mitt Romney (R) Mitt Romney, a Republican and former Governor of Massachusetts, ran for president in 2008 and was the party's nominee in 2012, but he lost to incumbent President Barack Obama. Romney is currently serving as a U.S. Senator from Utah.

He would have been much better than Obama on every level. Ironically, his winning would probably have meant Hillary Clinton would be in the White House now, since there would not have been such a pushback against Democrats and liberals in particular.

4 Ron Paul (L) Ron Paul, a former Republican Congressman from Texas, ran for president three times, once as the Libertarian nominee in 1988 and as a Republican in 2008 and 2012, but was unsuccessful each time. He is known for his libertarian views and advocacy for a smaller federal government.

Ron Paul ran for president many times, sometimes for the Republican nomination and sometimes for the Libertarian nomination. He constantly ran on a platform that included conservative positions of cutting taxes, deregulating private business, and states' rights, while also holding liberal positions such as decriminalizing drug usage, cutting the military budget, leaving the Middle East, and legalizing gay marriage.

5 Barry Goldwater (R) Barry Goldwater, a Republican Senator from Arizona, lost the presidential election to Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Goldwater is considered a pivotal figure in the conservative movement and is known for his staunch libertarian views.

Goldwater unsuccessfully ran against LBJ in 1964. His platform included cutting taxes and federal spending, leaving more power to the states, and restricting government power, among other things. Unfortunately, the Johnson administration ran a pretty dirty campaign against Goldwater.

Goldwater claimed that he was open to using nuclear weapons to help end the Vietnam War. Johnson ran commercials showing nuclear warfare and altered Goldwater's slogan "In your heart, you know he's right" to "In your gut, you know he's nuts." To be completely fair, Johnson greatly expanded the war and used chemical warfare, so he was a bit hypocritical.

Arguably, by using nuclear weapons and ending the war quickly, more lives could have been saved under Goldwater than under Johnson. Also, Goldwater opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, so Johnson labeled him as a racist. Goldwater voted against the bill not because he was racist, but because he believed that the federal government did not have the right to regulate and control private businesses. He actually supported voting rights for blacks and desegregation.

While it's not set in stone that Goldwater would have made a better president than Johnson, at least he was honest.

6 Nelson Rockefeller (R) Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican and four-term Governor of New York, sought the presidential nomination several times but never secured it. He eventually became Vice President under Gerald Ford from 1974 to 1977.

Rockefeller ran as a Republican but held some pretty liberal views for the time. This led to the term "Rockefeller Republican," which is another name for a moderate or liberal Republican. Rockefeller, along with Goldwater, constantly called out the religious extremists of the Republican party and feared that the party was moving too far to the right. He lost the Republican primary to Goldwater in 1964, so history never got to witness a Rockefeller presidency.

7 Al Gore (D) Al Gore, the Democratic nominee and former Vice President under Bill Clinton, narrowly lost the presidential election in 2000 to George W. Bush in a contested result decided by the Supreme Court. Gore is also known for his environmental activism and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 for his work on climate change.

Gore ran against Bush in 2000 and actually won the popular vote but still lost the election. Do I have to even mention his platform? I mean, the guy ran against Bush. He can't be that bad. Anyways, he supported tax relief, paying off the national debt, and environmentalism. Pretty much the polar opposite of his opponent.

If he had won, we could've avoided the Iraq War.

8 John McCain (R) John McCain, a Republican Senator from Arizona and a war hero, was the party’s nominee in 2008 but lost to Barack Obama. McCain was respected for his willingness to reach across the aisle and his dedication to public service.
9 Hillary Clinton (D) Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and First Lady, was the Democratic nominee for president in 2016 but lost to Donald Trump. Clinton has been recognized for her work on women’s rights and healthcare reform.

Brilliant, compassionate, beyond competent. She would have been amazing!

The best president we ever could have had! So brilliant and experienced.

10 Rand Paul (R) Rand Paul, a Republican Senator from Kentucky, ran for the Republican nomination in 2016 but did not secure it. He is recognized for his libertarian-leaning views and his emphasis on individual liberty and limited government.

Like his father, he supports many libertarian positions but distinguishes himself by supporting U.S. intervention in the Middle East and supporting economic sanctions on Iran.

The Contenders
11 Eugene Debbs (S) Eugene V. Debs, a five-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, never won but was a leading figure in the American socialist movement. He was notable for his advocacy for workers' rights and was imprisoned for his opposition to World War I.

Eugene Debs ran as a Socialist, which stirred lots of controversy. To be fair, during the time he was running, workers would work 12 hours a day, have poor working conditions, and be paid little. He ran on a platform of socialism, but also supported civil rights legislation, equal pay, and unemployment benefits.

12 Bob Dole (R) Bob Dole, a Republican and former Senator from Kansas, was the party's nominee in 1996 but lost to incumbent President Bill Clinton. Dole is respected for his lengthy public service career and his work on behalf of veterans.
13 Ross Perot (R) Ross Perot, an independent candidate, ran for president in 1992 and 1996, achieving significant support but ultimately not winning. He is known for his focus on fiscal responsibility and opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
14 Walter Mondale (D) Walter Mondale, a Democrat and former Vice President under Jimmy Carter, was the party’s nominee in 1984 but suffered a landslide defeat to incumbent Ronald Reagan. Mondale is recognized for his work on civil rights and environmental issues.
15 Thomas Dewey (R) Thomas E. Dewey, a Republican and former Governor of New York, ran for president in 1944 and 1948, losing to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman respectively. He is infamous for the erroneous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline in 1948.

Dewey, like Rockefeller, helped lead a coalition of moderate Republicans. He supported capitalism and small government but separated himself from the conservative coalition of Republicans by supporting parts of the New Deal, Social Security, and unemployment insurance. He ran for president twice but lost both times to FDR and Truman. His upset loss to Truman is seen in the famous photo of Truman, grinning triumphantly, holding up a newspaper with the caption that Dewey won.

16 William Jennings Bryan (P) William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential candidate, ran as a Democrat and later as a Populist but never won the presidency. He is best known for his eloquent oratory, advocacy for the silver standard, and his role in the Scopes Trial.

He ran on the populist ticket of bimetallism and more support for poor farmers. While economists debate whether he was right in supporting bimetallism, many poor farmers of the time worshipped him, similar to the way that FDR was worshipped during the Great Depression.

17 Nikki Haley (R)
18 Vermin Supreme (L) Vermin Supreme, a perennial candidate often associated with the Libertarian Party, is known for his satirical campaigns for president, which include promises like free ponies for all Americans. Despite his humorous approach, he uses his platform to promote discussion on civil liberties and governmental overreach.

The boot on his head says it all.

19 Marco Rubio (R) Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, sought the Republican nomination for president in 2016 but was unsuccessful. He is known for his focus on immigration reform and foreign policy issues.
20 John Kerry (D) John Kerry, a Democrat and former Senator from Massachusetts, was the party's nominee in 2004 but lost to incumbent George W. Bush. Kerry later served as Secretary of State under Barack Obama and worked on international climate agreements.
21 John Kasich (R) John Kasich, a Republican and former Governor of Ohio, ran for the Republican nomination for president in 2016 but did not secure it. He is recognized for his bipartisan approach and focus on balanced budgets.
22 Gary Johnson (L) Gary Johnson, a Libertarian and former Republican Governor of New Mexico, ran for president as the Libertarian nominee in 2012 and 2016 but was not successful. He is known for his advocacy for limited government and fiscal conservatism.
23 Kamala Harris (D) Kamala Harris, a Democrat and former Senator from California, sought the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 but withdrew before the primaries. She later became the Vice President of the United States under Joe Biden.
24 Jeb Bush (R) Jeb Bush, a Republican and former Governor of Florida, sought the Republican nomination for president in 2016 but did not secure it. He is known for his focus on education reform and is a member of the influential Bush political family.
25 Deez Nuts (Brady Olson) (I) Brady Olson, running under the pseudonym "Deez Nuts" as an independent candidate in the 2016 election, gained viral attention but was not a serious contender. Olson used his platform to highlight the absurdity in modern American politics.

Honestly, he was probably one of the best candidates of 2016. It's kind of sad, really.

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