After losing in 2012 Mitt Romney stated that he is done running for president…but this is 2014 and rumors are swirling.

Before too much is made of Mitt Romney chances in 2016 it is important to realize that history is very much against there ever being a President Romney.

We can break this down to a simple three step process. For Romney to be elected in 2016, he would need to: (1) Seek the party nomination, (2) Win the party nomination and (3) Win the general election.

The first step is a huge hurdle. It requires the candidate to have emerged from the previous loss sufficiently strong physically, emotionally and politically. This is quite rare.

Since 1900, there have been twenty candidates from the two major parties who lost their first general election for the presidency. Only five of those twenty (25%) ever formerly tossed their hat into the party nomination ring again. To put it the opposite way, for a variety of reasons, seventy-five percent of losing candidates decided to never run for president again. As of 2014 the last seven losing presidential candidates of major parties (McCain, Kerry, Gore, Dole, Dukakis, Mondale and Ford) never again sought the party nomination.

Romney emerged from the 2012 loss reasonably strong. He did not run a terrible campaign, did not have an embarrassingly weak electoral performance, did not make a disastrous choice for a running mate and will not be considered “too old” in 2016.

If he does seek the nomination, Romney has to convince Republicans to back him again rather than a different Republican candidate. This is another high hurdle. Of the five losing presidential candidates who sought their party’s nomination again, three lost in the primaries: Wendell Wilkie, Hubert Humphrey and George McGovern. This means that of those twenty losing candidates only two (10%) made it over the first two hurdles.

If Romney wins the Republican nomination, he then has to win enough electoral votes to be elected president, a feat he failed to do in 2012. He would need to energize his base more to improve supporter turnout and/or swing over more votes from the few remaining non-party loyalist voters.

Of the two candidates who made it over those first two hurdles, one (Adlai E. Stevenson*) was defeated in his second general election.

This leaves only one person since 1900 to have lost his first general presidential election and later succeeded at being elected president – Richard Milhous Nixon.

While a one out of twenty may seem like a long shot, I am sure some pundits are salivating at the opportunity to hear Mitt Romney proudly declare “Let me be America’s next Richard Nixon”.


* Adlai E. Stevenson (Democrat) lost soundly to Dwight D. Eisenhower (Republican) in both the 1952 and the 1956 election

Note: Previously we discussed that a history paints a similarly bleak picture for Paul Ryan’s chances of ever being elected president.