Synopses & Reviews
“I would rather be right than be president.”
—Henry Clay, 1824, 1832, 1844 presidential runner-up Henry Clay is one of a dozen men profiled in the chapters of Almost President, men who have run for the American presidency and lost but who—even in defeat—have had a greater impact on our history than many of those who have served in the Oval Office. Veteran political journalist Scott Farris tells the stories of these legendary figures, from Clay to Stephen Douglas, from William Jennings Bryan to Thomas Dewey, and from Adlai Stevenson to Al Gore. He also includes concise profiles of every major candidate nominated for president who never reached the White House but who helped promote the success of American democracy.
Farris explains how Barry Goldwater achieved the party realignment that had eluded FDR, how George McGovern paved the way for Barack Obama, and how Ross Perot changed the way all presidential candidates campaign. There is Al Smith, the first Catholic nominee for president; and Adlai Stevenson, the candidate of the “eggheads” who remains the beau ideal of a liberal statesman. And Farris explores the potential legacies of recent runners-up John Kerry and John McCain. The book also includes compact and evocative portraits of such men as John C. Fremont, the first Republican Party presidential candidate; and General Winfield Scott, whose loss helped guarantee the Union victory in the Civil War.
Almost President reveals that losers often show more foresight than winners, that being ahead of their time is one cause of their defeat, and that losing, like the demolition of a house, can be an opportunity for reconstruction of a political party and the nation. Losing presidential campaigns have created new political alignments and broken down barriers to participation for a wide variety of groups, from Catholics to women. And losing presidential candidates, by conceding victory graciously—an uncommon occurrence in many other nations—ensure that our American democracy works.
"When former UPI bureau chief and political columnist Farris lost a 1998 race for Wyoming's at-large congressional district, he was prompted to examine the role losers play in democracy. Farris notes that some unsuccessful White House aspirants have had a far greater impact on American history than many who became president: 'They created, transformed, and realigned our political parties. They broke barriers and taboos around religion and gender, ushered in new political movements....' Moving chronologically through 184 years, he finds past/present linkages as he profiles Henry Clay, Stephen Douglas, William Jennings Bryan, Al Smith, Thomas E. Dewey, Barry Goldwater, George McGovern, Ross Perot, Al Gore, John Kerry, and John McCain. In an in-depth essay on 'egghead' Adlai Stevenson, the candidate's 'soaring rhetoric' is contrasted with presidents who believed in 'cultivating an everyman image.' An appendix provides brief coverage of 22 more, including Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Mondale, and Bob Dole. Documenting changes in the face of America and the impact of such issues as race, religion, and workplace reform on elections, Farris writes with a lively flair, skillfully illustrating his solid historical research with revelatory anecdotes and facts." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
As the 2012 presidential campaign begins: Profiles of twelve men who have run for the presidency and lost, but who, even in defeat, have had a greater impact on American history than many of those who have served as president—from Henry Clay to Stephen Douglas, William Jennings Bryan to Al Gore—Plus, mini-profiles on 22 "honorable mentions."
Stirring portraits of the men who fell just short of theWhite House, but transformed America Henry Clay (Whig) 1824, 1832, 1844 • Stephen Douglas (Dem.) 1860
William Jennings Bryan (Dem.) 1896, 1900, 1908 • Al Smith (Dem.) 1928
Thomas E. Dewey (Rep.) 1944, 1948 • Adlai Stevenson (Dem.) 1952, 1956
Barry Goldwater (Rep.) 1964 • George McGovern (Dem.) 1972
Ross Perot (Ind., Reform Party) 1992, 1996 • Al Gore (Dem.) 2000
John Kerry (Dem.) 2004 • John McCain (Rep.) 2008
And concise profiles of the Federalists through Bob Dole “Scott Farris shines a welcome spotlight on the neglected subject of presidential
also-rans. In this impressive new book, Farris shows that the losers and their
ideas have sometimes transformed their political parties and moved the nation ahead. Meticulously researched, Almost President is rich in detail and anecdotes, and a pleasure to read.”
About the Author
Scott Farris, a former bureau chief for United Press International and a political columnist, has interviewed most of the men and women who have sought the presidency over the past thirty years. He has managed several political campaigns.