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The little tradition of candidate vice-presidents

Four years after leaving the White House, Joe Biden hopes to find her again by try to occupying the Oval Office this time.

Joe Biden to become the 46th American president? Or will he add to the long list of former vice-presidents who failed in their attempt to take over the Oval Office?

Of the forty-eight vice-presidents the United States has known, several have tried their luck solo later. But only five of them were subsequently elected: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon and George H. W. Bush.

It was John Adams who started this little tradition in 1796. Vice-president of George Washington for eight years, Adams then became the second American president in history.

Four years later, Thomas Jefferson, his vice-president, succeeded him by running against him. The two men were representatives of two different parties, but until 1804 and the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, the candidate who came second in the electoral college was elected vice-president, and not necessarily the running mate of the winning candidate. Through a series of unsuccessful political maneuvers from his own side, John Adams did not see his running mate come second in the 1796 election, but Thomas Jefferson.

After four tumultuous years, Jefferson took his revenge and became the third consecutive vice president to become president in 1800.

It was then not until 1836 to find trace of a vice-president elected to the presidency with Martin Van Buren who had succeeded Andrew Jackson, despite the strategy of the opposing party which had tried to send several candidates to beat him.

John Cabell Breckinridge had ended this streak of success in 1860, becoming the first vice president candidate on a major ticket to be beaten. He had then lost against a certain Abraham Lincoln.

The tradition was then somewhat lost between the mid-19th century with Breckinridge's attempt and the mid-20th century when Henry Wallace, vice president from 1941 to 1945, attempted to become president under the label of the Progressive Party. in the 1948 presidential election. In a four-man race, he won only one percent of the vote and no votes from the electorate.

The fate of a vice-president and the popularity of its president

Richard Nixon is a special case: he is the only vice-president to have been elected president after losing. In 1960, the Republican candidate was defeated by John Kennedy, as he emerged from an eight-year vice-presidency, alongside Dwight Eisenhower. Eight years later, however, he became the first vice president to become president after leaving the White House. Ironically, it was after an election won against outgoing vice-president Hubert Humphrey.

Among the reasons for this turnaround, Joel K. Goldstein, author of several books on the US vice-presidency, told TIME that “one of the things that helped Nixon was that with the passage of time, Nixon could present as a full person and not just as Eisenhower's number two ”. Meanwhile, Nixon had experienced a short crossing of the desert after losing the race for governor of California.

But facing Humphrey was also an advantage for him. "If a vice president serves under an unpopular president, he inherits his pots," continues Joel K. Goldstein. This was Hubert Humphrey's problem in 1968 with the Vietnam War and it was the same problem for Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984, when Ronald Reagan could run against him and blame him for the interest rates and the hostage crisis in Iran. ”

Since Mondale, two other vice-presidents have tried their luck. After eight years as Vice President of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush succeeded him in the Oval Office in 1989 after easily defeating Democrat Michael Dukakis. To date, he is the last vice-president to be elected. Unlike vice-presidents who had to drag their president's record like a bullet, Bush had been able to use the popularity of his former running mate as an exceptional springboard. "George Bush presented himself, for the most part, from the angle of a third term for Reagan," explains NPR.

However, the fate of a vice-president in the presidential election is not linked to the popularity of his president. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore was narrowly defeated in the Electoral College by George W. Bush, despite winning the popular vote. At the same time, Bill Clinton was credited with nearly 60% of favorable opinions in the country.

In 2016, Joe Biden had preferred not to start the race, touched by the death of his son, Beau. Four years later, he is very close to victory.

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