Getting to the White House means dealing with defeat. Of the 43 men who have served as president of the United States, 31 of them lost at least one race during their political career.
The list of those who overcame losing (as complied by Larry Sabato and associates at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics) includes Thomas Jefferson, who lost the 1796 presidential election before tasting victory in 1800.
In fact, the four presidents who followed Jefferson also endured some kind of defeat before they became commander-in-chief: James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson.
Other presidents who fall into this category are Teddy Roosevelt, who failed to be elected New York City mayor in 1886, and Richard Nixon, who suffered defeat in the 1960 presidential contest and the California gubernatorial race only two years later.
The record holders are William Henry Harrison, who was defeated five times before being elected president in 1840, and Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan and Benjamin Harrison, who lost four elections each.
The phenomenon of pre-presidential losses is by no means ancient history. In fact, surprising as it may seem, of the last 16 presidents, going back 90 years, the only ones who didn’t lose an election were Dwight Eisenhower, who had never run for office of any kind before he was elected president in 1952, and Gerald Ford, who became U.S. president without ever having run in a national election.
All this bodes well for the current crop of Republican hopefuls, considering that Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Rick Santorum have all been defeated in at least one election.