Has a sitting president ever lost his party’s nomination?

A broadside showing James A. Garfield and Chester A. Arthur. (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld plans to primary President Trump in 2020.

While his bid is a long-shot, it sparks an interesting question: Has a sitting president ever lost his party’s nomination? Shockingly, the answer is yes, and it has happened more than once.

The last time it happened was 1884 when Republicans nominated James Blaine over President Chester A. Arthur. For his part, Arthur was the vice president and assumed the presidency after Charles Guiteau assassinated President James A. Garfield in 1881.

In 1868, Democrats decided against nominating Andrew Johnson, who assumed the presidency after John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Johnson ran with Lincoln, a Republican, on the National Union ticket in 1864.

Controversy shrouded Johnson’s tenure in the Oval Office from the start. The House of Representatives impeached Johnson, but the Senate did not convict him.

During the 1868 Democratic National Convention, the party nominated Horatio Seymour. Ulysses S. Grant defeated Seymour during the general election.

Seymour and his running mate, Francis Preston Blair Jr., opted for a slogan of “This is a White Man’s Country, Let White Men Rule.”

In 1856, Democrats opted to nominate James Buchanan rather than incumbent President Franklin Pierce, the only time a party every declined to select a candidate elected president for their party’s nomination.

In 1852, the Whig party opted to nominate Millard Fillmore for their party’s nomination, rather than incumbent President Millard Fillmore. Fillmore acceded to the presidency after the death of President Zachary Taylor in 1850.

Fillmore supported the Compromise of 1850 and enforced the Fugitive Slave Law. While southerners liked Fillmore because of his positions, northerners viewed him with more disdain.

In 1844, President John Tyler, who assumed the presidency as a member of the Whig Party after the 1841 death of William Henry Harrison, sought the Democratic Party’s nomination. They declined and instead nominated James K. Polk, who defeated Henry Clay, a Whig, in the general election.

About Todd DeFeo 412 Articles
Todd DeFeo loves to travel anywhere, anytime, taking pictures and notes. An award-winning reporter, Todd revels in the experience and the fact that every place has a story to tell. He is owner of The DeFeo Groupe and also edits The Travel Trolley and Railfanning.org.