Has any incumbent POTUS ever sought and failed to gain his party's nomination for re-election?

Pretty much what the thread title asks, has any sitting US president ever wanted to be elected for a second term in office but, for whatever reason, failed to even make it on the ballot?

Grant. Arthur.


Gerald Ford came close. He did secure the 1976 nomination, but Ronald Reagan gave him a run for the money.

Grant won a second term


Wilson wanted to run for a third term in 1920. He believed he still had popular support and would win the election and vindicate himself to the members of his party who had disagreed with him over the League of Nations.

Wilson was out of touch. The public was more in agreement with the party’s position and there were also considerable worries about Wilson’s health. If Wilson had run, he probably would have lost.

But he never got a chance. In 1920, the parties still controlled the nomination process and the Democrats chose James Cox as their nominee.

Indeed. It was a third term Grant was denied, and that would not have been consecutive. He came back from his world tour thinking he would like to get back into office, but his time had already passed.

Andrew Johnson.

Technically Lincoln and Johnson ran on the National Union Party ticket in 1864. However, Johnson was a Democrat and tried and failed to secure the nomination in 1868.

Carter was also in some danger of losing the nomination to Ted Kennedy in 1980, but didn’t come nearly as close as Ford did.

LBJ ran in 68 but dropped out after the New Hampshire primary (which he barely won) when it looked like he would lose the next primary in Wisconsin badly. He quit on March 31st of 68.

Teddy Roosevelt gets an Honorable Mention. He was POTUS from 1901-1909 and, as non-incumbent, ran again in 1912 but failed to get the GOP nomination. He ran anyway, as a 3rd-party candidate and received more votes that the incumbent Taft. With the GOP vote split, Woodrow Wilson carried 40 states, mostly due to the “first-past-the-post” rule. (Wilson received a majority of the popular vote in no state outside the South.)

with 3 well known guys running it’s not a surprise Wilson only got 41% of the popular vote in 1912. Sort of like when Clinton got 43% and 49% in his 2 wins.

Which led to the National Lampoons photo funnies joke:

Senator Kennedy: “I will not seek the nomination for president”
Reporter: “What if they draft you?”
Senator Kennedy: “I’ll drive off that bridge when I come to it.”

And: If Ted Kennedy drove a Volkswagen he would be President today

It’s interesting that in the time since the US primary system was revised into its present form (around 1970 or so), there hasn’t been a successful primary challenge to an incumbent. Granted, this is only about 40 years of history compared to the 200 years or so prior. But if this pattern holds out for another few decades, one might start to wonder whether there’s a causal effect there.

Um. The devastating stroke Wilson had in 1919 might have had more to do with it than anything else. It may have been hidden for a while but by the time the 1920 election began in earnest it was well known that he was largely incapacitated.

Carter was never in any danger. Ted ran an absolutely ridiculous campaign and only won 12 states and 34% of the delegates. To say Carter didn’t come nearly as close as Ford did is the understatement of the year.

Kennedy managed to self-destruct early on. After declaring his candidacy, he sat down for an interview with Roger Mudd of CBS. The Carter people were initially unhappy about that as they saw Mudd as pro-Kennedy. But Kennedy proceeded to flub softball questions such as “why do you want to be President?”.
Also the presidency is a great forum from which to attract attention and divvy out public works/pork barrel projects that other candidates can’t match.

John Tyler: became President upon the death of William Henry Harrison and feuded with Whig party heavyweights as to what he should do.

James Polk: ran saying he only wanted one term. He died three months after his term ended so I imagine his health wasn’t good enough for him to change his mind (although poor health didn’t stop FDR from running in 1944 but he and party regulars made sure HenrynWallace was off the ticket

Millard Fillmore: failed to be nominated in 1852 as he was unpopular in North with signing Fugitive Slave Act and the Democrats had eventually nominated Franklin Pierce, a Northerner with Southern sympathies and a war hero. Stephen Douglas joked about Pierce’s dark horse nominattion that no man was safe from being drafted. Whigs countered with Southern born war hero Winfield Scott who ran a poor campaign. Jane Pierce didn’t want her husband to win.

Franklin Pierce: expected to be re nominated but the Kansas-Nebraska act left him unpopular and James Buchanan, who was out of the country as Ambassador to Great Britain got it. Sephen Douglas ended up supporting Buchanan as he figured he could get the nomination in 1860 and saw the death of their son Benjamin as God’s punishment for getting nominated.

James Buchanan: The Dred Scott decision early in his administration set the tone for an unpopular presidency. The Democratic party basically self destructed with a number of pro-slavery pro-independence Fireaters sabotaging Stephen Douglas, who needed two conventions to get the two-thirds needed to be nominated.

Andrew Johnson: a southern Democrat senator who didn’t join the Confederacy and was the 1864 Republican vice president nominee for unity (to be technical in 1864 the Republicans called themselves National Union party), was almost convicted by the Senate. Never had a chance to be renominated especially with Ulysses Grant waiting in the wings.

Rutherford Hayes: pledged to be a one term President and kept his word.

Chester Arthur: A former Stalwart (i.e. opposed to civil service reform) who made reforms as President, he didn’t have enough support in either wing of the party (Stalwarts, Half-breeds, Mugwumps…we need nicknames like those again). There were also rumors about his health and he did die two years after the election.

Harry Truman: unpopular President (Korea, Communist infiltration, corruption issues) whom the 22nd amendment didn’t bar from the Presidency. He didn’t run

Lyndon Johnson: ran in early stages of 1968. But with Senator Eugene McCarthy making a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary and Senator Robert Kennedy changing his mind and deciding to run, Johnson withdrew.

A lot of these guys were vice presidents who became Presidents. Until about 80 years ago a lot of conventions required a two-thirds vote which sometimes led to compromise candidates an convntions often chose the vice president nominees.

Grover Cleveland wanted to run as the Democratic nominee in 1896, hoping for a third term, but lost out at the convention when William Jennings Bryan brought the house down with this “Cross of Gold” speech.