Why Tim Kaine won’t get to the White House?
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As the Democrats look back on the wreckage of their 2016 campaign, they also will look forward to potential candidates in the 2020 race. One obvious contender would be Senator Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDem senator wants Trump to extend immigration protections to Venezuelans Pentagon sends Congress list of projects that could lose funds to Trump's emergency declaration The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE, who by virtue of being the Democrat’s vice presidential choice received national exposure. But instead, Kaine may have just seen his best hope of a presidential career pass him by. While Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PencePence travels to Nebraska to survey flood damage Pence traveling to SC for Graham reelection launch The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE now may actually have a golden path to the White House, the loser has to face a very tough history. Losing a VP race is usually a final stop for any presidential hopes.

For the actual vice president, there is a great chance that they will be their party’s nominee in the future. Since 1952, seven of 12 vice presidents have gone on to serve as the presidential standard-bearer in the next election. The vice president gets to run almost as an incumbent, who has the effective support of the president. This helps with the party faithful needed for the nomination. The vice president has remained prominent in the eye of the public before running for president. 

But a losing VP candidate has a much rougher track record. While few have the end result of Barry Goldwater’s running mate -- William E. Miller, who was later featured American Express commercials a decade after his losing run, asking "Do You Know Me?" -- the presidency is usually a bridge too far for these candidates. 

Going back all the way to the beginning, only three presidential nominees have also served as a losing vice presidential candidates. Each one is pretty exceptional.  

Bob Dole, the most recent member of this club, ran for VP with Gerald Ford in 1976, twenty years before his garnered the presidential nomination in 1996. During those twenty years, Dole ran two failed presidential runs as well as serving as the top Republican in the Senate. Of course, none of that helped him with his ultimate goal – Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides A Weld challenge to Trump would provide Republicans a clear choice History teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment MORE easily defeated Dole. 

The second man on the list actually beat Dole in the 1976 race – it was Walter Mondale, who lost in 1980 and came back in 1984 as the presidential nominee. Of course Mondale’s placement on this list deserves a huge asterisk, as he served as VP, which put him in perfect position for his presidential run. It didn’t help much in the general election, as Mondale was crushed by Ronald Reagan.

 The last name is the one that all candidates are hoping to follow. You have to go all the way back to 1920 to when  Democratic nominee James Cox tapped Assistant Secretary of Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt as his running mate. Cox and Roosevelt ended up with one of the worst losses in presidential history, as they were obliterated by Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge.

It took Roosevelt 12 years to get back to the national stage, during which time he served as New York Governor – at the time, by far the largest state and a real swing state to boot. Of course, he also benefited from his famous name and deep family connections.

Those three are the whole list. Noe other losing VP candidates have ever gotten close to the White House. Some of them have gone on to great political successes, perhaps none more so than the most recent losing VP, Speaker of the House Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanPaul Ryan joins board of Fox Corporation Bottom Line Paul Ryan says Trump will win reelection because of 'record of accomplishment' MORE. This isn’t a surprise development. These VP candidates were named as running mates because they were well-known and had, for the most part, already held top power positions in elective or appointive office.

But for many, instead of success on the presidential level, they have discovered four years afterward that the public has turned. Joe Lieberman, Edmund Muskie and John Edward all were rejected in their attempts at the nomination in the next election. Others, like Sarah Palin, Dan Quayle, Jack Kemp or Geraldine Ferraro, never won an office again.

For Kaine  being chosen as a running mate was a potentially big move to taking that final rung on the electoral ladder. But losing the race may represent the end of the road for any presidential hopes.

Spivak is a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York. He blogs at The Recall Elections Blog. Follow him on Twitter @RecallElections


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