Which Major Party Candidate Would Have Been the Worst?

Full title: Presidential Near Misses. Which Major Party Presidential Candidate Would Have Been the Worst Had He Won?

I know this is totally speculative and revisionist history so I imagine non-experts such as myself are free to have a go at it.

I’ll open with Walter Mondale. He ran a campaign with the promise to raise taxes if elected, this after barely coming out of the economic slump that was the 70’s. Had he won the election, which he lost in a landslide, he would have taken over from 1984 to 1988 which was still a turbulent and somewhat unstable time. I’m not saying Reagan exactly knocked it out of the park during his second term but I think Mondale would have been truly awful. “Where’s the beef?” indeed.

There are things to be admired about Berry Goldwater, but his election in 1964 would have been interesting, to say the least. I can’t imagine how the civil rights movement would have played out from 1964 to 1968 with him in the White House.

I think Mondale would have been fine.

It would have been terrible if George W. Bush had been elected instead of Al Gore.

John Charles Fremont, Republican of 1856. He was sincerely antislavery–maybe more so than Lincoln–and his opponent (Buchanan) was a total douche. But still, his election would likely have been a disaster. He was reckless, impulsive, and worked poorly with others. The South would most certainly have seceded if he had won, and I don’t believe he would have had the patience and management skill to win the Civil War. I believe the United States would not exist today if he had won.

Horace Greeley. He would have been dead when inaugurated.

Aaron Burr.

Anyone who ever ran against FDR. I think his leadership is a key reason the US pulled out of the Depression and remained an economic superpower, as opposed to floundering and failing (both financially and wrt morale). He may have doggled a bunch of boons (or booned a bunch of doggles), but those boondoggles helped the morale of all the hardworking unemployed. They got back to work and were able to start putting food back on the table for their families.

Makes me wonder if Obama could pull off something similar within the next few years.

I was going to say the worst one was elected . . . but of course he wasn’t.

IIRC, even LBJ said that McGovern was something of a nutcase. If an outgoing prez, of your own party, calls you a nut, I’m inclined to believe it.

This is actually very interesting. Because he died after general election but before electoral college. So we would have had a president whom no layperson had voted for. (of course, we had that later with Ford, but that was special).

Michelle Bachmann or Herman Cain. Take your pick.

Nixon in 1960. The Cuban Missile Crisis was a near thing and there’s no guarantee Nixon would have handled it as well as Kennedy did.

If that is your take, then you’d have to go with McClellan in 1864. He ran on the platform of ending the war and letting the CSA go.

Nitpick: He would have taken over from 1985 to 1989. I voted for him and am still sorry he did not win.

How about William Jennings Bryan? He was nomibnated enough times. Always seemed like a nut case to me.

I thought we were focusing on people who actually got the nomination and lost.

Walter Mondale is kind of the default winner for modern times.

But didn’t William Jennings Bryan get the nomination? He was an idiot…frequently.

Not to mention how good a thing it was that Lincoln won his initial election. I have no idea what Breckinridge was like, but Lincoln was essential to this country still being whole.

I was gonna say that, but my mouth was full of peanut butter.

I dunno. I think Mondale would have been a better President than Dukakis.

But historically speaking, the worst 20th century pick would have been the 1940 Republican nominee, Wendell Willkie. Not that Willkie was a bad person or a notorious idiot. But Willkie died in October 1944, before the election. His running mate, Charles McNary, died the previous February, and there was no 25th Amendment at the time to provide for a replacement for McNary. The U.S. would have been stuck in the latter but still dicey stage of World War II with the Speaker of the House (Sam Rayburn) from the opposite party becoming President, no Republican candidate four weeks before the election and who knows who (Wallace? Someone we’d never heard of? Almost definitely not Harry Truman.) as the Democratic candidate.

:golf clap: very nice! :smiley:

Probably not Wallace. His base was having been Roosevelt’s VP but in the scenario you’ve described he wouldn’t have been. And there were a lot of Democratic leaders who didn’t like Wallace - he was extremely liberal (and this was back when a lot of conservatives were still Democrats) plus he was kind of flaky.

And Truman doesn’t appear to have considered himself a Presidential candidate until Roosevelt asked him to run as Vice President. I think barring that, Truman would have been content to stay in the Senate for his entire career.

I’d suggest James Farley as a potential 1944 candidate. He was an important figure in the Democratic Party and he had presidential ambitions. He had been a strong supporter of Roosevelt in 1932 and 1936 but they broke in 1940. Farley opposed Roosevelt’s decision to run for a third term (many thought that Farley felt 1940 was his year and Roosevelt should have stepped down after two terms). Farley’s major political handicap was that he was a Catholic, which was still a significant disadvantage to a Presidential candidate in the forties.

If winners fit OP guidelines, I also go with GWB. Goldwater may have been zany, but at least he had integrity. A lot of things went bad during 2001-2009; the Cheney-Rove Administration deserves much blame. (That Cheney-Rove is the best name for this Administration gives an idea of what a terrible disappointment GWB was.)

A strong case can be made that both Cuba and Vietnam were due in large measure to JFK’s arrogance and hypocrisy. That may be beyond the scope of this thread, but I couldn’t let this go unanswered.