Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Lose a House Seat, Win The Presidency

Is this a good sign for Barack Obama? If we wins, he'll be the third consecutive president to have run for the U.S. House once, and lost.

In 1974, Bill Clinton ran for the House in the third district of Arkansas. He lost the general election to Republican John Paul Hammerschmidt.

In 1978, George W. Bush lost to then-Democrat Kent Hance in the general election for the House in the 19th district of Texas.

In 2000, Barack Obama lost the Democratic primary to incumbent Congressman Bobby Rush, in the first district of Illinois.

John McCain, who has never lost an election for either house of Congress, doesn't seem to fit in. The events described above are undoubtedly merely coincidental, but McCain can also take comfort from the fact that, before Clinton, the last previous president to lose a House election was William McKinley, who was president from 1897 to 1901.

In the meantime, though, there were some defeats in Senate elections.

George H.W. Bush won the only two U.S. House elections he contested, in 1966 and 1968. However, he had only reluctantly settled for the lower house, after having lost in 1964 to Ralph Yarborough in a general election in Texas, for the U.S. Senate. And his tenure in the House ended when he again unsuccessfully sought that Senate seat, losing to Lloyd Bentsen in 1970. Bush got a measure of revenge against Bentsen when, in the 1988 presidential election, Bush defeated the Democratic ticket on which Bentsen was the vice-presidential candidate.

Bush was never elected to the Senate, a body in which his father, Prescott Bush, had served for ten years. George H.W. Bush was, however, president of the Senate, by virtue of being vice president from 1981 to 1989.

Lyndon Johnson narrowly lost the Texas Democratic primary for a 1941 special election for the U.S. Senate seat that had been held by the late Morris Sheppard. Johnson went on to (narrowly, again) win the Democratic primary for that seat, in 1948 (thereby earning the nickname "Landslide Lyndon"). During those years, Democratic primary winners always won general elections in Texas, due to the weakness of the Republican Party there. It was not until Johnson gave up his Senate seat, in 1961, after being elected vice president, that Republicans began winning any Texas Senate elections.

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