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Shoulda, coulda, woulda

These senators found that trying to move to the White House straight out of Congress was tougher than they thought.

January 08, 2006|Michael Soller


Bob Dole: Majority Leader Dole resigned his Senate seat six months before the election, announcing he had "nowhere to go but the White House or home." Incumbent President Clinton sent him back to Kansas.


Edmund Muskie: Maine's Muskie won the New Hampshire primary but seemed to lose his composure and his momentum outside a Manchester newspaper shortly after it printed a letter forged by a Nixon staffer alleging that Muskie slurred French Canadians as "Canucks."


Barry M. Goldwater: Arizona's Goldwater got a four-year break from his 30-year senatorial career in 1964, though not the one he was looking for. Pushing Americans' nuclear-fear buttons with a much-publicized but little-run ad, President (and former Senate majority leader) Lyndon B. Johnson plucked the petals off Goldwater's daisy.


Robert M. La Follette: Fightin' Bob La Follette of Wisconsin won nearly 5 million votes as the Progressive Party candidate in 1924, the record for a third party before 1980. But La Follette wasn't around when the party pulled its punches in 1928, failing to run a presidential candidate: He died in 1925.


Stephen A. Douglas: The Illinois senator tried for the Democratic nomination three times, losing in 1852 and 1856 before winning it in 1860. Abraham Lincoln KO'd his longtime political sparring partner after the Democrats split over slavery. Douglas wound up with 1.4 million votes (to Lincoln's 1.9 million) but only 12 electoral votes. He died in 1861.


Henry Clay: Like Dole 150 years later, Kentucky's Clay was a dominant man in Congress for much of the early 1800s. But there's a reason historians call it the Jacksonian Era: In the close 1824 election that was ultimately decided by the House, Speaker Clay threw his weight behind John Quincy Adams over popular-vote winner (and then-Tennessee Sen.) Andrew Jackson. But Clay, running from the Senate, fell to Jackson in 1832.

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