On November 8th, 2016 will mark the end of two historic Presidential campaigns where Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have fought viciously in hopes of leading the nation. Many Americans are displeased with the two candidates, however. Trump and Clinton have disapproval rates of 60% and 52% respectively, polls show. In other words, it seems like a large part of America will be making a choice based who is the best of the worst on election day. It leads the question, what is the chance of reelection if they face someone less disliked than their current opponent or themselves? If the reelection slips, he/she will be the first president since George Bush Sr. to not secure a second term. Below is a list of the last five presidents who failed to win a second term and the reasons why they came up short.
George Bush Sr.
President George H.W. Bush, the 41st U.S. president, is also known as Bush Sr. to differentiate him from his son George W. Bush, who won the presidency in 2000. His son ended up being re-elected and was followed by current President Obama. Bush Sr. served between 1989 and 1993, after being elected in the fall of 1988. Under his watch, the U.S. undertook its first invasion of Iraq. The mission was a resounding success, but a struggling U.S. economy was attributed to Bush's eventual unseating by President Bill Clinton, who ended up being elected for two terms.
President Jimmy Carter was the 39th U.S. president and lost out to Ronald Reagan, who went on to serve two terms. As with Bush and many presidents that don't end up getting re-elected, Carter served during a struggling U.S. economy that was suffering through high interest rates and inflation. His foreign affairs track record was also described as uneven and included an unsuccessful hostage rescue exercise in Iran in November 1979. Carter's foreign relation successes since he was president kept him in the public eye. Carter engaged in negotiations with North Korea in 1994, and the country agreed to freeze its nuclear weapon ambitions.
President Gerald Ford served right before Jimmy Carter as the 38th president of the United States. Ford was originally President Richard Nixon's vice president and was nominated as president after Nixon resigned his post following the Watergate scandal. Ford also failed to win re-election, which occurred back in 1976. Like Carter, he served during a period of difficult domestic economic circumstances that included stagflation, or minimal economic growth during a period of high inflation. The U.S. also encountered energy shortages during his tenure. In 1974, Ford granted a pardon to Nixon and this is a reason cited for his failure to win re-election.
President Herbert Hoover was the 31st president and served between 1929 and 1933. The stock market crash of 1929 occurred right after Hoover entered office and he also served through the Great Depression. Needless to say, his hopes of winning re-election after these events were going to be minimal. He was succeeded by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who ended up serving three terms.
President William Taft served as the 27th president between 1909 and 1913. He was said to not enjoy serving as president, instead having preferred to be a judge. He also struggled to succeed Theodore Roosevelt, who is considered to be one of the most popular presidents in the 20th Century. In fact, his relationship as a closer friend to Roosevelt was reportedly a big factor in his election as president. His relationship with Roosevelt soured while Taft was in office and this was thought to have minimized his chance of re-election.
The Bottom Line
Presidents that serve during times of turmoil, especially when it comes to a domestic recession or difficult economic environment, usually have a difficult time winning re-election. At other times, the presidents above were simply unable to make their marks on history and capture enough popularity to win a second term in office.