You’d think a sitting vice president would have an advantage while running for president, particularly in a crowded field, but history suggests otherwise.
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Since 1789, a sitting vice president has won only four out of the 57 presidential elections that have been held, according to the National Constitution Center. Half of those victories were gained by two of the nation’s founding fathers: Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
Since then, only Martin Van Buren, elected in 1836, and George H.W. Bush, elected in 1988, have been able to win the White House as sitting vice presidents. The sitting vice presidents who did not fare as well include John C. Breckinridge who lost to Abraham Lincoln (1860); Richard Nixon who lost to John F. Kennedy (1960); Hubert Humphrey who lost to Nixon (1968).
And of course Al Gore, the last sitting VP to run for president, lost the bitterly-contested 2000 election to George W. Bush — despite winning the popular vote.
Vice President Richard Nixon was ultimately elected president, but not as a sitting vice president. He left the office of vice president in 1961 and won the presidential election in 1968.
None of this is exactly encouraging news for Vice President Joe Biden who is said to be considering a run for the nation’s top office. He would face off against five other contenders including Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee and former Virginia Senator Jim Webb.
Historically, in American politics, if the president is not running again, the sitting vice president is pretty much a shoo-in if he decides to seek his party’s nomination.
However, it’s not a sure thing. Alben Barkley, President Harry Truman’s number two, wanted to succeed his retiring boss, but ultimately failed in his quest to capture his party’s nomination.
Barkley was 74 years old at the time and many dismissed him as too old for the job.
Biden, who is 72 now, will be 74 on election day. The oldest candidate ever elected president of the United States was Ronald Reagan, who was 73 when he won his second term in 1984.
If Biden does opt to run, history shows he will have to beat the odds to pull out a victory and win the White House.