Political Animal


November 13, 2012 2:42 PM The Ryan Precedent

By Ed Kilgore

Speaking of Paul Ryan: While the inevitable 2016 speculation hasn’t broken out just yet, there’s little doubt the Ryan’s is the name we will hear most often from Republicans. He is, after all, the favorite of Randians, fiscal hawks, and social conservatives alike, who can allegedly appeal to the young and Midwestern-blue-collar voters the GOP needs. If he could only speak Spanish fluently, he’d be ideal.

Wondering about the precedent for a failed vice presidential candidate aspiring to the White House, I looked at recent history. There were fifteen losing major-party vice presidential nominees from 1952 through 2008. Seven of them later ran for president (Lodge—technically a draft effort, not a candidacy—Muskie, Dole, Mondale, Quayle, Lieberman and Edwards). Two won nominations for President: Mondale and Dole. Neither is a good fit with Ryan; Mondale had actually served as vice president for four years, and Dole’s 1996 nomination owed more to his years as Senate minority leader than to memories of his partnership with Gerald Ford twenty years earlier. Neither Mondale nor Dole, of course, came within a hundred electoral votes of entering the Oval Office.

Actually, the only failed vice presidential nominee to become president in the era of modern party tickets was the man whose programmatic legacy Paul Ryan aims to blow up: Franklin D. Roosevelt. But even he had to wait twelve years to rise from ignominy to triumph.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • artsmith on November 13, 2012 2:47 PM:

    How about the record of those people who WEREN'T selected by the Presidential nominee, but were on the short list? The VP nominee was alleged to be the "best" option; the rest were deficient in some unknown way.

  • DJ on November 13, 2012 2:48 PM:

    I'm not quite sure what exposed Ryan as a paper tiger of a national candidate:

    1) His especially mendacious acceptance speech;
    2) Joe Biden pantsing him on national television in the VP debate; or
    3) That workout photo of his with the backwards cap and the look on his face akin to the kid from Deliverance.

  • T2 on November 13, 2012 3:08 PM:

    The GOP 2016 nomination will be similar to this years....the best of a bad lot will prevail. Judging from Ryan's performance as Romney's losing partner, I'm not sure he'll survive Chris Christie, or Rubio, or other GOPers. I personally think the thought of Ryan having to do three debates against Joe Biden will keep him from running. And frankly, from where I stand, Obama is going to have had the worst four years in the history of an American president for a Republican to win the WH. Maybe not even then. I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever see another GOP president. seriously.

  • Bo on November 13, 2012 3:09 PM:

    Now that the election is over and the Fiscal Cliff Kabuke theater is in its first act, I will repeat the prediction I made on November 1 -- Boehner will fall out of grace for making a serious attempt at a Grand Bargain; Eric Cantor will lead a palace coup; and Doogie Hauser Ryan will be the next Speaker of the House as both a (1) consolation prize and (2) a chance for the teabaggRs to jab a sharp stick in Obama's eye.

  • Greg Goss on November 13, 2012 3:10 PM:

    Vice presidential candidate in a failed campaign?

    Shouldn't Nixon get an honourable mention, at least?

  • Doug on November 13, 2012 3:12 PM:

    Before we start looking at who we're going to get to vote against in 2016, wouldn't it be better to start looking around at what we can expect in 2014?
    Of course much will depend on what happens in Congress over the next two years, but I really don't think it's too early to start looking around at possibilities.
    Call it a political version of window-shopping, if you wish...

  • c u n d gulag on November 13, 2012 3:14 PM:

    I think, though the Republicans may want him, he'll carry the taint from this loss for a long, long, time.

    Sure, they can blame Romney, but Ryan was supposed to be that shot of steroids and speed, to help put him over the top.
    The perfect marriage - "The Efficiency Expert" and the "Policy Wonk!"
    How could they possibly lose?

    And still, they lost to that KenyanSocialistFascistCommunistAtheistMuslim!

    As of today, Romney and Ryan received less votes than McCain and Palin.
    That's GOTTA hurt!!!

  • Stetson Kennedy on November 13, 2012 3:25 PM:

    I certainly hope the GOP nominates Ryan; if nothing else was made clear in this election, it is that Ryan's social views no longer speak to the plurality of American voters. He is a sure loser in 2016.

    My guess is, though, that the GOP will somewhat come to their senses, champion immigration reform, and make someone like Marco Rubio the face of it. That would concern me more. Rubio is as fiscally Nazi as Ryan, but is more willing to give on social issues. He could be [shudder] a real threat to win.

  • c u n d gulag on November 13, 2012 3:29 PM:

    Greg Goss,
    Nixon never lost as VP.

    He lost in the '60 Presidential as the Presidential candidate.

    Ike hate him. But the won in '52 and '56.

  • MuddyLee on November 13, 2012 4:11 PM:

    Paul Ryan would be a terrible president - I know this because there were so many South Carolina republicans who were happy when Mitt Romney picked him as the VP candidate in August. In fact, most of them were sure that the selection of Ryan would ensure Romney's victory over President Obama. I assume that most of these South Carolina republicans never got around to reading Atlas Shrugged - if they had, they might have known better.

  • Tom G on November 13, 2012 4:23 PM:

    Ed, I think you left out Sargent Shriver, who ran in 1976 (briefly) after losing with McGovern in '72.

  • The Dylan on November 13, 2012 4:26 PM:

    No. Paul Ryan is not the favorite of Randians- if you are referring to the admirers of Ayn Rand. And please don't call him a fiscal hawk either. He is the favorite of neo-conservatives who don't care about balanced budgets and are happy to see the debt continue to balloon out of control while we pursue a foreign policy of empire-building & adventurism, bankrupting the next generation of tax-payers. Just because someone claims to have read Atlas Shrugged does not mean he is an advocate of free market economics & limited government. Just look at the Ryan Budget. In ten years, he couldn't find any real spending cuts & the budget still wouldn't be balanced. Paul Ryan represents the GOP establishment not mainstream American conservatives & libertarians.

  • Daniel Buck on November 13, 2012 4:42 PM:

    Ed, go back further, start with 1900 (why? because it's a nice round number). There have been 25 unsuccessful major party VP nominees who lost either on a challenger or non-incumbent ticket (In other words, I'm excluding incumbent VPs like Mondale who were later nominated for president. A different category.) Of the 25, only two were later nominated for president.

    The 25, in reverse order: Palin, Edwards, Leiberman, Kemp, Bentsen, Ferraro, Dole, Shriver, Muskie, Miller, Lodge, Kefaufer, Sparkman, Warren, Bricker, McNary, Knox, Robinson, Bryan, FD Roosevelt, Fairbanks, Johnson, Kern, Davis, & Stevenson.

    Of the 25, only FD Roosevelt and Dole went on to be a presidential nominee, and only Roosevelt won. Interestingly, the presidential nominations were not immediate, Roosevelt 12 years later and Dole 16. Dan

  • Rich on November 13, 2012 4:58 PM:

    Ryan is a media darling with plenty of fanboys, which cannot be said for the the others you mention. Dole could give some smartass remark and Leiberman remains a "bipartisanship is bliss" fave, but he's obviously never gotten out of the chatshow ghetto. Ryan has the potential to be more of a media made star.

  • Bob h on November 14, 2012 6:50 AM:

    I doubt that I was alone among the 50 million viewers of the VP debate who saw a somewhat callow lightweight in Ryan. That debate did him no good.

  • John Dillinger on November 14, 2012 8:42 AM:

    I'm assuming Ryan will have a prime perch during the "fiscal cliff" negotiations. It will be interesting to see if the media continues to defer to his largely illusory expertise on fiscal matters, or, after a campaign at the end of which his higher math skills failed to alert him that he was going to lose by north of 120 electoral votes, the media instead begins to turn a more critical eye to his supposed skill set.

  • Simulated Annealing on November 14, 2012 11:25 AM:

    Didn't you link that XKCD cartoon of presidential predictions? I'm sure you've seen it.

    Please proceed, blogger Kilgore.