Everybody is talking about what’s going on in the presidential race, with all the fire on the desperate rush of the GOP to stop Donald Trump and with the not-so-friendly competition between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Whoever will win the nominations, are we so sure that they will be the leaders of their parties?
And again, the presidential candidates in the last ten rounds of the presidential elections were all political leaders inside the Democrats or the Republicans?
Let’s check it out:
back in 1976 Jimmy Carter (D) defeated Gerald Ford (R); Carter won the nomination over Jerry Brown and Ford was incumbent, being the president in charge. Carter wasn’t the top leader of the democrats, nor he was the most prominent candidate. The Carter presidency was hardly a successful one.
In 1980 Ronald Reagan (R) defeated Jimmy Carter (D); Reagan won the nomination against George H.W. Bush (he then choose him as part of his ticket), while Carter was incumbent. Reagan was already in competition before and became leader of his party when in competition. His alliance with Bush secured him the votes in the southern states and the support of the establishment in Washington D.C.
In 1984 Ronald Reagan (R) defeated Walter Mondale (D); Reagan was incumbent and Mondale won the nomination on Jesse Jackson. The democrats knew for sure that Reagan could not be beaten and Mondale was a form of compromise inside the party to find a suitable figure to oppose one of the most popular presidents ever.
In 1988 George H. W. Bush (R) defeated Michael Dukakis (D); the former vice-president easily overcome his opponent, Bob Dole , in the republican party. Dukakis won a hard competition with Jesse Jackson. Bush was a leader in the republican party, Dukakis was the rising star for the democrats. Later both of then declined under the weight of different scandals.
In 1992 Bill Clinton (D) defeated George H. W. Bush (R); Clinton finally won over Jerry Brown, his campaign is remembered as “the comeback kid”. No leaders were in charge for the democrats, with Brown already in his declining years. Bush was in office and incumbent for the role. It was the end of the Reagan era, under the shadows of Iran-Contra affair and many other darker things.
In 1996 Bill Clinton (D) defeated Bob Dole (R); Clinton was incumbent and Dole won over Pat Buchanan in a dire competition (similar to the one won by Mondale in the 1983). The election was a landslide for Clinton.
In 2000 George W. Bush (R) defeated Al Gore (D); the son of the former president George H. W. Bush (then governor of Texas) won over John McCain but the real leader of his party was the father (and all his connections). The former vice-president Gore easily got the nomination over Bill Bradley. The result of the presidential election was heavily contested.
In 2004 George W. Bush (R) defeated John Kerry (D); Bush Jr. was incumbent and Kerry won over John Edwards (choosing him later as his running mate). The democrats were divided more than ever, it was the support from the real leader, Bill Clinton, to win the nomination for Kerry.
In 2008 Barack Obama (D) defeated John McCain (R); this was a round full of surprises. In the democrats field Obama won the nomination over the resistance of the better part of his party who were already at the side of Hillary Rodham Clinton. The republican field was split by the Tea Party and McCain won the nomination over Mitt Romney (McCain’s ticket was with Sarah Palin, the star of the Tea Party).
Finally in 2012 Barack Obama (D) defeated Mitt Romney (R); Obama was incumbent and Romney won the fight in the republican field over Rick Santorum. Romney worked for three years to prepare his final assault on the presidency, falling short both in conquering the party (once again split) and in the popular consensus.
I can see a very few leaders here. A lot of them became leaders after becoming presidents but none of them “owned” their party or was preminent in the public consensus before taking office.