U.S. Presidents Who Never Won a Presidential Election

I have written several articles on our Presidents and Vice-Presidents. A list of the links have been provided at the bottom of this article for your convenience. This article will, however address additional Presidents and their places in history.

There are a total of five presidents who were never elected president. I have posted them below.

USA, 19th Century

John Tyler

10th President, inaugurated in April 1841 – vice president to William Henry Harrison, who died of complications from pneumonia on his 32nd day in office. The first ever non-elected president, Tyler’s opponents regularly called him “His Accidency” and addressed correspondences to him as “Vice President” or “Acting President” (letters which he returned unopened).

He was never fully accepted as President and made matters worse by not following Whig Party policies. This eventually led to him being ousted from his own party, a claim that only he holds.

Reason for not being elected: Couldn’t overcome his secondary status as evidenced by the campaign slogan, ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler, too’, because when you think about it any name can be substituted in that second position.

When his term ended in 1845, he did not seek election. 

  • Age: Dec. at 71 (1790-1862)
  • Party (if partisan): Whig
  • Rating 2.5 Stars

Millard Fillmore

13th President, inaugurated in July 1850 – vice president to Zachary Taylor, who died of an attack of cholera one year and four months into his term. He succeeded with the nation, keeping it from splitting with the Compromise of 1850. In attempting to keep the Whig Party unified, he divided them further. Reason for not being elected: Anyone trying to give everything to everyone is ultimately not going to succeed. Also, compromise is for the weak.

Though he wanted to serve as president again, Fillmore lost the Whig Party’s nomination to General Winfield Scott – who then lost the 1852 election to democrat Franklin Pierce.

  • Age: Dec. at 74 (1800-1874)
  • Party (if partisan): Know Nothing
  • Rating 2.75 stars

Andrew Johnson

17th president, inaugurated April 15, 1865 – vice president to Abraham Lincoln, who was assassinated one month into his second term.

In 1868, amidst the high tension of the Radical Reconstruction of the South, Johnson became the first ever US president to be impeached. He was eventually acquitted of all charges and sought and lost the Democratic nomination for the 1868 election. Johnson was determined to stand opposite Lincoln’s plans. Which  began a political war between him and the Republicans (Republicans and political battles go hand in hand). This series of battles led to two attempts to impeach him, breaking the record previously held by John Tyler. The second attempt actually led to impeachment. A verdict of guilty was reached, but the required majority to toss his ass out wasn’t.

Reason for not being elected: Having been the only President to be impeached at the time and just pissing everyone off in general, what more could he do?

  • Age: Dec. at 66 (1808-1875)
  • Party (if partisan): Democrat
  • Rating 2.0 stars

Chester A. Arthur

21st president, inaugurated September 19, 1881 – vice president of James Garfield, who was assassinated after 200 days in office. During his time in office, Arthur reformed the institution of civil service. This did not sit well with the Republican Party, which were supporters of the institution of appointing one another to positions of power in return for this or that. Arthur wasn’t even nominated for re-election.

Though he considered running for a full term in the 1884 election, Arthur ran only a lackluster campaign due to limited support and his ailing health.

  • Age: Dec. at 57 (1829-1886)
  • Party (if partisan): Republican
  • Rating 2.75 stars

Gerald Ford

38th president, inaugurated August 9, 1974 – vice president to Richard Nixon, who resigned halfway into his second term.

Notably, Ford, then the House minority leader, was chosen as VP by Senate after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, who pleaded no contest to tax evasion in October 1973. To date, Ford remains the only person to assume the roles of both president and vice president without having been elected by the electoral college.

This man completely skirted the whole Electoral College system, being the only man of the bunch to have never been elected to either the Presidency or Vice-Presidency. He was appointed Vice-President following the resignation of Spiro Agnew, and became President when Richard Nixon resigned. On two separate occasions assassination attempts were made on Ford, both by women.

He was known for being bumbling and clumsy, as demonstrated numerous times on Saturday Night Live. His biggest trip up, however, was granting a pardon to Nixon.

  • Age: Dec. at 93 (1913-2006)
  • Party (if partisan): Republican
  • Rating 3.0 stars


thoughtco.com, “5 U.S. Presidents Who Never Won a Presidential Election,” By Tom Murse; ranker.com, “U.S. Presidents Who Weren’t Elected Into Office,” By Carly Kiel; delsquacho.com,”The Five Presidents Nobody Voted For,” By Jamie;

Presidential Series