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Trump 2024? Presidential comebacks have blended success


American writer F. Scott Fitzgerald as soon as wrote that “there are not any second acts in American lives.”

But it’s already assumed Donald Trump will go on to a subsequent act in a single type or one other.

Will he begin his personal media firm? Function a GOP kingmaker?

There are even rumblings that he’ll determine to run once more for president in 2024. Having served just one time period, he’s constitutionally eligible to attempt for one more.

If he does determine to run once more – and if he wins – he’ll be in uncommon firm.

Just one American president has misplaced reelection after which received again his workplace: Grover Cleveland. Within the American elections course that I educate, college students be taught particulars in regards to the long-term political impacts of those comeback efforts, most of that are workout routines in futility.

‘Gone to the White Home, ha ha ha’

The late Nineteenth-century political setting resembled right this moment’s in some ways: tight polarized elections, sturdy regional patterns in nationwide voting, comparatively excessive voter turnout and adverse campaigning.

Cleveland, a Democrat, had been governor of New York for lower than two years when his social gathering nominated him for president in 1884. As governor, he had gained a fame for preventing Tammany Corridor corruption in New York Metropolis.

In the course of the 1884 marketing campaign, wherein Cleveland ran towards Republican James Blaine, a scandal erupted when a New York lady named Maria Halpin accused Cleveland of raping and impregnating her. She was ultimately institutionalized and compelled to surrender her little one for adoption. Cleveland disputed a few of the particulars of the story, and his supporters countered jeers of “Ma, ma, the place’s my pa?” with chants of “Gone to the White Home, ha ha ha.”

Grover Cleveland weathered assaults that he had fathered a baby out of wedlock.
Common Photos Group through Getty Photos

Cleveland ended up successful the nationwide well-liked vote by a slim margin – 48.85% to 48.28% – and received 219 electoral votes to Blaine’s 182. Cleveland’s base of assist was within the South and in his house state of New York, whereas Blaine did properly in the remainder of the North. Voter turnout was excessive, estimated at 77.5% of the voting-age inhabitants.

Throughout Cleveland’s time period, tariffs turned a divisive partisan situation in American politics. Republicans favored increased tariffs to guard Northern manufacturing pursuits, whereas Democrats like Cleveland usually wished decrease tariffs to assist the South’s agricultural export-oriented pursuits and to decrease costs for shoppers.

Cleveland’s comeback

When Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888, he confronted off towards Republican Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland once more received the nationwide well-liked vote by a good margin, however misplaced two states – Indiana and New York – that he had received in 1884. It was sufficient to flip the Electoral School and permit Harrison to be elected president.

A campaign poster highlights the platform of Cleveland's reelection campaign.
Grover Cleveland ran on tariff reform in 1888 – and misplaced.
Library of Congress/Corbis/VCG through Getty Photos

After dropping the election, Cleveland returned to work as an legal professional in New York. Below President Harrison, Congress accredited the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Silver Buy Act, every of which had been strongly opposed by Cleveland.

In 1891, after two years of avoiding the general public highlight, Cleveland once more turned politically energetic and began to vocally oppose the financial insurance policies of Harrison. Cleveland attracted some nationwide consideration that yr with a public letter indicating his persevering with assist for the gold commonplace.

As Cleveland met with social gathering leaders and made some public speeches in 1892, nationwide Democratic assist for his presidential nomination started to develop. By the point the Democratic Nationwide Conference met in June that yr, assist for Cleveland had turn out to be overwhelming, and he secured the nomination.

With Populist Get together candidate James B. Weaver on the poll pulling votes from each main social gathering presidential candidates, Cleveland received the nationwide well-liked vote for the third straight election, this time besting Harrison by a 46% to 43% margin and successful the Electoral School.

Strive, attempt once more

Whereas Cleveland has, up to now, been the one U.S. president to lose reelection after which come again and win, different presidents have tried and failed.

In 1840, Democratic President Martin Van Buren misplaced reelection. He tried to be renominated by his social gathering in 1844, however Democrats as an alternative selected James Polk. By 1848, Van Buren joined with a gaggle of disaffected Democrats and anti-slavery activists to turn out to be the nominee of the Free Soil Get together, which opposed the extension of authorized slavery to U.S. territories. Whereas Van Buren received 10% of the nationwide well-liked vote and completed second in New York, Massachusetts and Vermont, he received no Electoral School votes.

Van Buren is the one president apart from Cleveland to be renominated by his social gathering, lose reelection after which seem once more on ballots as a presidential candidate.

Three different presidents additionally made tried comebacks to regain the presidency after leaving workplace.

In 1852, President Millard Fillmore, who had ascended to the presidency after the demise of Zachary Taylor, made a halfhearted try to win the Whig Get together nomination for a full time period. When he failed, he got here again 4 years later because the presidential candidate of the American Get together, higher generally known as the “Know Nothings,” a political motion to limit Catholic immigration to america. Fillmore received over 21% of the nationwide well-liked vote, the second-best efficiency by a third-party presidential candidate in American historical past and received Maryland’s electoral votes.

One of the best efficiency by a third-party presidential candidate in American historical past was additionally by a former president, Theodore Roosevelt. In 1912, he ran for the Republican presidential nomination towards his extra conservative protege, President William Howard Taft. When Roosevelt didn’t get his social gathering’s nomination that yr, he ran because the Progressive Get together candidate.

After being shot at a marketing campaign rally through the month earlier than the election and surviving, Roosevelt bought 27% of the nationwide well-liked vote and 88 electoral votes, ending far forward of Taft in each vote tallies – however properly behind the winner, Woodrow Wilson.

The final American president to lose reelection and try to run for president once more was Herbert Hoover, who was unsuccessful in each 1936 and 1940 at persuading different Republicans to let him lead the social gathering once more after he misplaced in a landslide in 1932.

Richard Nixon made a special type of political comeback.

He misplaced the presidential election of 1960 whereas serving as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice chairman after which went on to lose the 1962 California gubernatorial election. After the 2 losses, Nixon famously advised the press, “You received’t have Nixon to kick round anymore.” However the press did get one other whack at Nixon when he ran for president a second time – and received – in 1968.

Nixon addresses the press after his 1962 loss.
After dropping the 1962 California gubernatorial race, Nixon complained of his therapy by the press and hinted that he would retreat from public life.
Bettmann through Getty Photos

The final try at a political comeback by a defeated president was a really temporary effort by Gerald Ford, who had misplaced reelection in 1976, to negotiate the potential of being Ronald Reagan’s working mate through the 1980 Republican Nationwide Conference. The plan fell by, and Ford returned to non-public life.

As soon as out of workplace, most ex-presidents keep out of the highlight and keep away from criticizing their successor. Whether or not or not President Trump makes an attempt a political comeback in 2024, it’s probably that he received’t keep mum over the subsequent 4 years.

[Get our most insightful politics and election stories. Sign up for The Conversation’s Politics Weekly.]



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