7 of the Worst Presidential Nominees of All Time


The U.S. Presidential Election is a global event with hundreds of millions of people tuning in on election night to see who becomes ‘The Leader of the Free World’. The 2016 Election involves the two most disliked presidential nominees in history. In any other election cycle, Hillary Clinton would have a historically high disapproval rating but in Donald Trump, she happens to have an opponent with an even worse rating.

In this piece, I will look at 7 other presidential nominees who were either desperately poor choices to begin with or ran a poor campaign. As it is realistically a two horse race each time, I am only looking at failed Democrat and Republican nominees.

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

1 – Horace Greeley (1872 Election)

Greeley was the founder of the New York Tribune and became involved in Whig Party politics as a young man. He was a big advocate of settlement in the American West and is said to have popularized the phrase “Go West, young man, go West and grow up in the country”, a version of which was first used by John Soule in 1851. Greeley was involved in the winning campaign of William Henry Harrison in the 1840 Election and he created the Tribune soon after.

Although he was involved in politics, he wasn’t really a politician. His main political experience came in 1848-1849 when he was a Congressman in New York’s Sixth District. His only spent 4 months in the role and received it on the back of the resignation of the former congressman on the back of electoral fraud. Greeley helped found the Republican Party in 1854 and may even have named it. He also supported Lincoln during the Civil War and pushed for the abolition of slavery before the Great Emancipator wanted to.

After the death of Lincoln, Greeley supported Radical Republicans to oppose President Andrew Johnson but fell out with Republican President Ulysses Grant over corruption and Reconstruction issues. Despite Greeley’s career as an influencer in political circles, his lack of experience in a public office made him a bizarre choice as Grant’s opponent in the 1872 Election. To be clear, Greeley was not the choice of the Democrats; (he ran under the Liberal Republican Party banner) but the Democrats didn’t nominate their own candidate and threw their weight of support behind him.

Although he received 43.8% of the popular vote, Greeley only carried 6 states and was defeated 286-66 in the Electoral College. It should be noted that Greeley actually died before the Electoral College votes were counted but he had been comprehensively beaten. To say he had a terrible year up to that point is an understatement. The Republicans had successfully completed a smear campaign on Greeley and he had to suspend his own campaign almost a month before the election as he wife was gravely ill. She died on 30 October 1872, just six days before the election. Greeley died on 29 November and his Electoral College votes were divided among four other candidates. Oddly enough, he received three posthumous votes!


  • Julien Benney

    I wonder why John W. Davis, the Democratic nominee in 1924 after a protracted National Conference, was not included?

    Even if not the least able major party pick, he has certainly to be the least viable. Although he was from a border state where the limited black population could and did vote, Davis shared the extreme conservatism of Confederate State Democrats on issues like poll taxes and female suffrage.

    With the former Confederate States never enough to win the Presidency even though their electoral votes were out of proportion to their small electorates (in South Carolina only about 6.6 percent of the adult population or 14 percent of the adult white population voted in 1924) the Democrats had to have some appeal to the North and West as Wilson did in 1916. However, Davis’ opposition to female suffrage would by itself have been enough to cross his name from potential voters in the West and Upper Midwest even without his party’s historic associations with Romanism and the confederacy. His economic conservatism made the problem only more entrenched.

    As it turned out, Davis obtained less than ten percent of the popular vote in Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota and California – an ignominy suffered by no other post-Civil War Democratic candidate in history in any state. He barely reached ten percent in liberal Washington State. Three of those states had been critical to Wilson winning in 1916, when he also lost Minnesota by one vote in 988.

    • Joseph Atkins

      Very good point. Davis should replace Kerry on this list.

      • Julien Benney

        No doubt about it. Even if he did decline badly in many inevitably lost, socially ultraconservative, historically secessionist white Upland South counties (today as Republican as historically Unionist bastions that gave Alf Landon 70 percent in 1936) Kerry did hold on to those areas where the Democratic Party’s social liberalism is viable very well. Moreover, those areas were by 2004 substantial.

        Even in socially conservative areas, Kerry did not always lose compared to Gore: he gained 4 percentage points in Montana, 2 percentage points in South Dakota (though Obama gained 13 in 2008) and did not lose in other Northern Plains states.

  • Scott084

    LOL, so after the death of Lincoln, Greeley opposed “president Andrew Jackson?”
    You’re going to stick with that story?

  • Scott084

    So, is it too soon to list Hillary Clinton? She somehow managed through incompetence and arrogance to lose the election to a man with zero political experience and pretty much zero personal charm. I could run down a list of her mistakes, but that would require several gigabytes of data.

    • Kenny

      And in an election that strongly favored the Republicans she beat Trump by three million votes.

      • Scott084

        Another person whose unclear of how presidents have been elected for over 200 years.

      • Roger Amundson

        Only because Trump didn’t campaign in certain areas he knew he couldn’t win. In politics, like football it doesn’t matter who gets the most yards or first downs…it’s who scores the most points. Trump and his advisers may have lost California and New York battles but they won the war.

      • KeithE4Phx

        She did not “beat” Trump by 3 million votes. She lost to Trump 304-227, in the Electoral College — the ONLY thing that counts.

        The only ones that recognize the nonexistent nationwide popular vote are the news media trying to fill time with their common taters, and the candidate that loses in the Electoral College (see also: Samuel Tilden, Al Gore).

        • Kenny

          “the ONLY thing that counts.”..

          Is the United States Constitution. Which limits government, provides checks and balances. Including removal of a terrible President.

          • KeithE4Phx

            Yes, but the Constitution defines the Electoral College, therefore it is the only result that counts.

            Removing a President can’t happen without the support of 2/3 of each house of Congress. It does not happen unless the President does something so egregious that he loses support of his own party. Watergate was at that level (Nixon’s impeachment AND removal were guaranteed, therefore he resigned). Lying about a BJ was not at that level. So far Trump has merely been an unmitigated jackass. Being an unmitigated jackass is not impeachable.

            The 25th Amendment method has never been tried.

    • Joseph Atkins
    • Cabbie Ted

      Hillary allegedly carried State secrets around on her private laptop computer. She claimed she was shot at when she landed at Bosnia. She wanted to build a bridge for illegal aliens rather than enforce existing immigration laws. She had done absolutely nothing as a Senator for New York. The three bills she sponsored included naming a bridge and other miscellaneous items. She had done absolutely nothing as Secretary of State except rack up travel miles. Her husband had cheated on her 842 times and she still had not kicked him out of her mansion. She had no backbone. She did not stand for anything and yes she was a bad candidate. She should be listed as #8 on this list.

  • Anthony Barcellos

    “Truman was extremely unpopular and his Democrat Party”

    Unless you are a partisan Republican, there is no “Democrat Party.” Truman was nominated by the Democratic Party. You don’t get to change the name unilaterally.

    • Joseph Atkins

      This article is chock full of grammar errors. The author should invest five bucks in a native-born English speaker to proofread for him. It’s sad…and typical. “His only spent 4 months in the role and received it on the back of the resignation of the former congressman on the back of electoral fraud.”

    • cmouse

      Perhaps you should check your history. Andrew Jackson named it the Democrat Party.

      • Tom

        Andrew Jackson was also long dead by the time Lincoln was President. It was Andrew Johnson.

  • Joseph Atkins

    This took me down memory lane. I remember the “Wimp or Shrimp” of the Dukakis-Bush election. I’m a bit confused by Kerry’s inclusion on the list. Lying, pandering, or caring only about stats/winning does not distinguish him from any other political candidate in American history. His 49%-51% split of the vote is pretty standard for Presidential elections (I’m rounding). For this reason, I don’t think H. Clinton should be included on this list, as some commenters have stated (I chalk this up to recent events/top-of-mind).

  • lazybumranch

    Not mentioned in the Dukakis piece was the fact the Willie Horton truth was actually revealed by Democrats, I believe Al Gore. For years that has been called dirty trick by the Bush Campaign.

    And yes, Kerry was a spectacular failure, and loads of fun to watch go down in flames.

  • Um…you left HRC off the list for some reason because who in their right minds WOULDN’T think the most hated woman in American politics couldn’t win the election?

    • Crixxxx

      Because she was running against the most loathsome, degenerate creature to ever enter politics, perhaps? And 3 million people ended up preferring her over him.

      • …and she still lost. What does that imply?

        • Crixxxx

          Yeah, she lost by +3,000,000. What it implies is that the Electoral College is a joke.

          • No. It implies that her 30yrs of experience and billion dollar campaign staff couldn’t be a novice. It also points out her arrogance and duplicity which should have been evident when she waited until the last possible moment to announce in order to keep the competition low.

            Keep blaming everyone except her. She was a horrible candidate who should have beaten (t)Rump. But, sure, slap that Hillary 2020 bumper on your car now because…stuff.

          • Crixxxx

            Oh, I have no shortage of blame for her and the Democratic Party for the way things turned out. They alienated the progressive wing of the party, and they never got energized to support her candidacy. Nor do I support her running again in any capacity.

            But that wasn’t the point. You asked how could anyone think that she could win to begin with. And the answer was that she was running against an even more unpopular person who ended up getting 3 million less votes than she did. So the point was that her winning the election was completely plausible.

          • Jim Siverson

            The real problem is that there is no real progressive wing of the Democratic Party, at least not in big enough numbers to do anything. Most American progressives are independent, and chose to remain so even after Bernie Sanders chose to join and run as one. In most states that shut them out of voting in the primary. Had they joined along with Sen. Sanders, they could’ve made an enormous difference. But instead, they observed from the sidelines and watched their candidate win only one of the 10 states with largest delegate count (#10 Michigan). Then they chose to stay home in the general election, over 92 million voters did not participate – and look what it got us. One more Supreme Court nomination and it’s goodbye progressive movement. We’ll have a conservative court for decades.

          • Crixxxx

            Progressives pushed Obama past Clinton in 2008. When motivated, they can turn out in big numbers, as seen with Bernie, but when disappointed, they refuse to settle for the Democrat who wasn’t their choice. Kerry didn’t get the support of the Howard Dean progressives in ’04 and lost. Hillary didn’t get the Bernie progressives and lost. Only Obama was able to unite the progressives and moderates of the Democratic Party and win two decisive elections.

          • Meko21

            Obviously you dont get it. Clinton destroyed her campaign completely by herself. Just like Democratics are doing again for the next election. People don’t elect candidates that hate and insult the public not to mention the physical attacks on the other party.

          • Crixxxx

            Hate and insults are the chief characteristics of Donald Trump. And I seem to have missed when Clinton physically attacked any Republicans. When did that happen, exactly?

          • Smokey
          • Crixxxx

            Enjoying watching your orange asshole crash and burn and his shit-for-brains supporters look more and more stupid by the day for being tricked by a treasonous lying fraud. Do you like people to think of you as a mindbendingly stupid person?

          • Lanceman

            Sorry, b itch. She’s never going to get her criminal hands on the WH again. And I hope you aren’t entertaining delusions of Shrek Donkey Chelsea.

        • Wayne Laflamme

          Fixed election.

      • Smokey
        • Crixxxx

          HAHA. Your orange pervert degenerate has just been exposed for treason. And yet you still support him? What a dumb fuck.

          • SignifyingJive

            Putin thanks you for your service. The Russians have one goal in mind—bring down the United States. When you talk such nonsense you are behaving the way Vladimir wants you to behave. The genesis of this witch hunt was the dossier created by Fusion GPS, and paid for by…probably Democrats.

          • dentss

            It’s a Liberal Problem..they know that the ooobama was in charge and had
            his hands on all the levers and instruments of BigGov and it was all
            ooobama appointees running all the alphabet Law Enforcement / Intel
            agencies and they all failed to do anything effectual to stop the cyber
            attack..then they tried to cover it up thinking Hillary would go along
            with the cover up when she got elected. Fact of the matter is we were
            never supposed to hear about this ooobama failure / cyber attack because
            the Establishment were convinced Hillary would win.

      • Lanceman

        3 million, eh? I’ve got news for you. I doubt seriously that obama won 2012 legitimately. There’s easily 3 million ineligible people that voted. Many of them deceased. Who’s gonna question the democrat precinct counts? The Republicans? BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAA!!

        Nevertheless, every criminal, every illegal, every parasite invariably votes democrat. I wonder why that is?

  • Eric Fuller

    In the case of Mondale he fell into the “It’s my turn” syndrome. After Jimmy Carter’s defeat in the 1980 election, Mondale was the immediate front runner in 1984.

  • Zombie John Gotti

    “James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine.”

  • Dianne Crandall

    I read where people are asking – why isn’t Hillary on here. She’s not suppose to be. The first two paragraphs of the article tell us that. The operative word is ‘other’.

    “The 2016 Election involves the two most disliked presidential nominees in history. In any other election cycle, Hillary Clinton would have a historically high disapproval rating but in Donald Trump, she happens to have an opponent with an even worse rating.

    In this piece, I will look at 7 other presidential nominees who were either desperately poor choices to begin with or ran a poor campaign. As it is realistically a two horse race each time, I am only looking at failed Democrat and Republican nominees.”

  • Tom

    I liked Bob Dole though I disagreed with many of his policy positions. But he ran, at the time, the most inept campaign I’d seen.

    I also can’t say much for John McCain’s 2008 run.

  • LaToya Hill

    Any list of the worst presidential candidates that does NOT include the two that ran in 2016 is a joke.

  • KeithE4Phx

    “Your future is still ahead of you” — Thomas E. Dewey

    Apparently, his speeches were written by Yogi Berra.

  • Harvey Novack

    How can Hillary not be on here?

  • cbl1984

    Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Gary Johnson were some of worst candidates ever, and the fact that SOMEBODY won — simply because somebody had to win! — does not negate this fact!