Two-Time Losers in Politics


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State Sen. Bill Brady is announcing his third run for governor today. In 2006, Brady lost the Republican primary to Judy Baar Topinka. In 2010, he lost the general election to Gov. Pat Quinn. In politics, is the third time the charm? Usually not.

Here’s a history of other two-time losers who came back for a third try.

William Jennings Bryan: Bryan, who was born in Downstate Salem and first nominated for president at the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, lost to William McKinley in 1896 and 1900. After taking an election off, he lost again to Theodore Roosevelt in 1908.

Ronald Reagan: Winner! Reagan ran for the Republican nomination in 1968 and 1976, losing to Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, respectively. But in 1980, he won the nomination and the presidency.

Bob Dole: Dole is actually a four-time loser. He was the losing vice-presidential candidate in 1976, then ran unsuccessfully in the Republican presidential primaries in 1980 and 1988. In 1996, he finally got the nomination, but by then, he was 72 years old, and lost to the younger and more popular Bill Clinton.

Ray Wardingley: The Southwest Side political activist also known as “Spanky the Clown” ran as a Republican for mayor of Chicago in 1995 and 1999. After that, he lost races for Congress, state senator and alderman.

Other two-time losers knew when to quit: Thomas E. Dewey and Adlai Stevenson each lost two consecutive presidential elections. Neither ran again. As Reagan demonstrates, it’s possible to bounce back from two defeats. But generally, candidates who are rejected twice are seen by the public as perennial losers.

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