by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, John McCain, Al Gore, Bob Dole: All five won their party’s presidential nominations after previous failed attempts. All went on to lose.
Democrat Joe Biden hopes to buck the trend as his party’s presumptive standard-bearer in 2020 following ill-fated runs in 1988 and 2008. He faces a mercurial incumbent in President Donald Trump, who has never raised his average approval rating above the 40s and now presides over an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.
Experts tell the Washington Free Beacon that Biden faces historical headwinds as a third-time presidential candidate with more than 40 years in national office. Overcoming decades-old preconceptions and generating voter enthusiasm have been challenges for repeat candidates in the past, and Biden would be the oldest nominee ever at 77.
“Once you’ve been on the national scene for more than a decade, your odds of winning the presidency are really low,” RealClearPolitics elections analyst Sean Trende said. “The second- or third-time runner is part of a broader trend that people who have been in elected office for a long time don’t do well, and that’s something that has been consistent going back to the 1920s.”
Recent elections have shown American voters like fresh faces or familiar incumbents, not also-rans. Should Trump prevail over Biden, it would mark the eighth consecutive time voters opted for a first-time candidate or incumbent president over his opponent. Repeat candidates have been the losers in five of the last six presidential general elections. The one first-time candidate to lose, John Kerry (D., Mass.), had been in the Senate for nearly two decades when he lost to Republican incumbent George W. Bush in 2004.
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