A brief overview of political parties in presidential elections

by John English
by John English

1788
George Washington (Independent)
Unopposed

1792
George Washington (Federalist)
Unopposed

Washington refused to run for a third term, a tradition honored by his successors for almost 150 years until FDR ran for a third term in 1940.

1796
John Adams (F)
Thomas Jefferson (Democratic-Republican)

1800
Thomas Jefferson (D-R)
John Adams (F)

1804
Thomas Jefferson (D-R)
Charles Pinckney (F)

1808
James Madison (D-R)
Charles Pinckney (F)

1812
James Madison (D-R)
DeWitt Clinton (D-R)

Unable to agree on a candidate, the Federalists decided to endorse Clinton.

1816
James Monroe (D-R)
Rufus King (F)

1820
James Monroe (D-R)
Unopposed

Again, the Federalists were unable to nominate a candidate.

1824
John Quincy Adams (D-R)
Andrew Jackson (D-R)
William H. Crawford (D-R)
Henry Clay (D-R)

Jackson won a plurality but not the majority so it went to the House of Representatives. The House ultimately awarded the election to Adams, who had the second-most amount of electoral votes. This ultimately caused the D-R to split into two parties.

1828
Andrew Jackson (Democratic)
John Quincy Adams (National Republican)

1832
Andrew Jackson (D)
Henry Clay (NR)
John Floyd (Nullifier)
William Wirt (Anti-Masonic)

After Jackson’s re-election the National Republicans organized with some Federalist remnants to form the Whig party.

1836
Martin Van Buren (D)
William H. Harrison (Whig)
Hugh L. White (W)
Daniel Webster (W)

Van Buren’s vote total was still more than all the Whigs put together.

1840
William H. Harrison (W)
Martin Van Buren (D)

Harrison died a month after his inauguration. His Vice-President John Tyler is so unpopular, the Whigs refuse to endorse him for re-election.

1844
James K. Polk (D)
Henry Clay (W)

Polk pledged to only serve one term, which is just as well since he died a few months after he left office.

1848
Zachary Taylor (W)
Lewis Cass (D)
Martin Van Buren (Free Soil)

Taylor dies just over a year after his inauguration, and his Vice-President Millard Fillmore is so unpopular, the Whigs refuse to endorse him for re-election. The Whig party managed to get two presidents elected, and both times, their man dies, and his Vice-President does a bad job stepping up.

1852
Franklin Pierce (D)
Winfield Scott (W)

Pierce is so ineffective, the Democrats refused to endorse his re-election, and they nominated Buchanan instead.

1856
James Buchanan (D)
John C. Fremont (Republican)
Millard Fillmore (American)

1860
Abraham Lincoln (R)
Stephen A. Douglas (D)
John C. Breckinridge (Southern Democrat)
John Bell (Constitutional Union)

Republican_presidential_ticket_1864b1864
Abraham Lincoln (National Union)
George B. McLellan (D)

For Lincoln’s re-election, the Republican party is rebranded as the National Union party, though most state Republicans keep the name “Republican.” After Lincoln’s assassination, they go back to being the Republican party, and Vice-President Andrew Johnson goes back to being a Democrat.

1868
Ulysses S. Grant (R)
Horatio Seymour (D)

1872
Ulysses S. Grant (R)
Horace Greeley (Liberal Republican)
Thomas A. Hendricks (D)

1876
Rutherford B. Hayes (R)
Samuel J. Tilden (D)

This was the first election where one candidate (Tilden) won the popular vote, but the other (Hayes) won the electoral college vote (not a plurality like Jackson). Hayes pledged to only serve one term.

1880
James A. Garfield (R)
Winfield S. Hancock (D)

Garfield was assassinated after one year. His VP, Chester A. Arthur did okay, but Arthur didn’t put up a serious fight for his re-election due to health issues.

1884
Grover Cleveland (D)
James G. Blaine (R)

1888
Benjamin Harrison (R)
Grover Cleveland (D)

Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the electoral college vote.

1892
Grover Cleveland (D)
Benjamin Harrison (R)
James B. Weaver (Populist)

Cleveland became the only president to serve non-consecutive terms.

1896
William McKinley (R)
William Jennings Bryan (D)

1900
William McKinley (R)
William Jennings Bryan (D)

McKinley was assassinated in 1901. His VP Teddy Roosevelt did a great job. In fact, Roosevelt was the first vice-president to assume the presidency who then won his re-election.

1904
Theodore Roosevelt (R)
Alton B. Parker (D)

1908
William H. Taft (R)
William Jennings Bryan (D)

Taft was Teddy’s chosen successor, but Taft undid so many of Roosevelt’s policies that it sparked him to run for another term as a third-party candidate.

1912
Woodrow Wilson (D)
Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive)
William H. Taft (R)
Eugene Debs (Socialist)

This was the last election where one of the two major parties finished in third place.

1916
Woodrow Wilson (D)
Charles E. Hughes (R)

1920
Warren G. Harding (R)
James M. Cox (D)

Harding died in office, and his VP Calvin Coolidge did a good job cleaning up the mess Harding left.

1924
Calvin Coolidge (R)
John W. Davis (D)
Robert La Follette (Pg)

1928
Herbert Hoover (R)
Al Smith (D)

1932
Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Herbert Hoover (R)

1936
Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Alf Landon (R)

1940
Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Wendell Willkie (R)

1944
Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Thomas E. Dewey (R)

FDR died a few months after he was elected for the fourth time. His VP Harry Truman picked up the pieces.

1948
Harry S. Truman (D)
Thomas E. Dewey (R)
Strom Thurmond (Dixiecrat)

1952
Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Adlai Stevenson (D)

1956
Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Adlai Stevenson (D)

1960
John F. Kennedy (D)
Richard M. Nixon (R)
Harry F. Byrd (I)

JFK was assassinated in 1963, and his VP LBJ took over.

1964
Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
Barry Goldwater (R)

1968
Richard M. Nixon (R)
Hubert Humphrey (D)
George Wallace (American Independent)

1972
Richard M. Nixon (R)
George McGovern (D)

Nixon became the only president to resign before finishing his term. His VP Gerald Ford had been appointed after Nixon’s original VP Spiro Agnew had resigned, so Ford became the only person to serve as U.S. President without being elected on a Presidential/Vice-Presidential ballot.

1976
Jimmy Carter (D)
Gerald Ford (R)

1980
Ronald Reagan (R)
Jimmy Carter (D)
John B. Anderson (I)

1984
Ronald Reagan (R)
Walter Mondale (D)

1988
George H.W. Bush (R)
Michael Dukakis (D)

1992
Bill Clinton (D)
George H.W. Bush (R)
Ross Perot (I)

Perot won 19% of the popular vote, and his participation made Clinton’s victory the lowest percentage for the winner since Wilson in 1912.

1996
Bill Clinton (D)
Bob Dole (R)
Ross Perot (Reform)

Perot may not have won any electoral votes, but his presence meant that Clinton is the only two-term president to not win at least 50% of the vote either time.

2000
George W. Bush (R)
Al Gore (D)
Ralph Nader (Green)

Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the electoral college vote, and Nader’s 2.8 million votes most likely cost Gore the presidency.

2004
George W. Bush (R)
John Kerry (D)

2008
Barack Obama (D)
John McCain (R)

2012
Barack Obama (D)
Mitt Romney (R)

4 presidents have been assassinated. 3 Republicans, 1 Democrat.
4 presidents have died of other causes in office. 2 Whigs, 1 Republican, 1 Democrat.
1 president has resigned before his term was up. 1 Republican.
9 presidents were vice-presidents who suddenly became president.
– 5 of them were not re-elected. 2 Whigs, 1 Democrat, 2 Republicans.
– 4 of them were. 2 Republicans, 2 Democrats.
4 presidents have taken office after losing the popular vote. 3 Republicans, 1 Democratic-Republican.
1 president has served more than 8 years. 1 Democrat.
1 president has served two non-consecutive terms. 1 Democrat.

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