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Senator versus Senator:

Unless something very unexpected happens, the presidential race this year will be between Senator John McCain and either Senator Hillary Clinton or Senator Barack Obama. Has there ever been an election in which both major party candidates were sitting Senators? I can't think of one, but I defer to those with more voluminous knowledge of such things.

Joe Kowalski (mail):
Well, logically, since only 2 sitting senators have ever been elected president, we only need to look at those to races:
JFK ran against Nixon, at the time the Vice President, and Harding ran against James Cox the Governor of Ohio. So, unless there was an 19th century election in which there was more than 2 major contestants, and two of whom were senators, but neither elected, I think it is safe to say we have a unique situation.
2.12.2008 3:49pm
merevaudevillian:
I don't believe so. The only two times (to my recollection) that a sitting senator has won the presidency have been 1920 (Harding) and 1960 (Kennedy). Harding defeated James Cox, sitting governor of Ohio, and Kennedy defeated Nixon, sitting Vice President.
2.12.2008 3:50pm
merevaudevillian:
Doggone, defeated in my attempt to provide the right answer first :)
2.12.2008 3:51pm
Ex parte McCardle:
Also in the 1960 election, Virginia Senator Harry F. Byrd won his state and took its electoral votes, although he wasn't a major-party nominee. Does that make three members of the Senate in '60?
2.12.2008 3:54pm
Thorley Winston (mail) (www):
No, out of the fifteen US Presidents who have ever served in the United States Senate (James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Warren G. Harding, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon) only Harding and Kennedy were sitting Senators when they were elected and ran against a sitting Governor and Vice President respectively.

(And yes I did go through each one)
2.12.2008 3:54pm
Ex parte McCardle:
Just kidding about the last--we know from our current Vice-President that the VP is a member of neither the Executive nor the Legislative Branch.
2.12.2008 3:55pm
Gnopple (mail):
Yes, but wasn't Nixon, as VP, also the President of the Senate?? Count it!
2.12.2008 3:56pm
Buckland (mail):
The office of senator changed a lot after 1914 because of the 17th amendment. Since they were appointed by the state legislators the senator's term tended to be shorter and their focus had to stay on the state or they wouldn't be reappointed.

There were some senatoral candidates for president prior to 1914, but they were much rarer than today. Prior to 1914 the senator's attention was tuned to activities back in the state. The state politicians had the power to send him back next term. Running for president would have been frowned upon by most states.

I don't think there has been a senator vs senator since 1914, and would be very surprised if there was one before.
2.12.2008 4:01pm
Mikeyes (mail):
So how many presidential candidates were on the Supreme Court?
2.12.2008 5:00pm
cjwynes (mail):
That list of presidents who had previoiusly been senators is interesting. There's six in a row from Monroe to Tyler, then only 5 in the entire 20th century.

Except for Andrew Jackson, no one on that entire list of 15 is considered to have been a particularly good (or effective) president either. There's one that was assassinated, one more that died in office, one that was impeached, one that was almost impeached, plus the Teapot Dome guy who maybe should have been impeached, and then the rest of the roster is composed of seat-fillers.

Doesn't give much hope for Obama/Clinton/McCain.
2.12.2008 5:09pm
Paul B:
McCardle,

You are incorrect about the 1960 election. VP Nixon carried Virginia in 1960, albeit with the help of the Byrd machine that sat out the election.

Uncommitted electors were chosen in Mississippi and for half of Alabama's delegation. They cast their votes for Senator Byrd in the Electoral College, but they were not elected as Byrd delegates.
2.12.2008 5:12pm
Paul B:
McCardle,

You are incorrect about the 1960 election. VP Nixon carried Virginia in 1960, albeit with the help of the Byrd machine that sat out the election.

Uncommitted electors were chosen in Mississippi and for half of Alabama's delegation. They cast their votes for Senator Byrd in the Electoral College, but they were not elected as Byrd delegates.
2.12.2008 5:12pm
Apollo:
Andrew Jackson was a sitting senator when he won an electoral plurality in 1824. In 1836, the Whigs ran regional candidates to try to deny Van Buren an electoral majority. Former senators Van Buren and W.H. Harrison finished 1-2, but then 3 sitting senators received electoral votes.

A while back I compiled a collection of factoids about senators running for the presidency.
2.12.2008 5:26pm
Student:
The vice president is no more a senator by virtue of presiding over the body than are William Rehnquist and Salmon Chase.
2.12.2008 5:27pm
Matty G:
Just a quick note on some of the methodology being used here: it seems to assume that a Senator v. Senator race must be won by a Senator.

But there are several multi-way elections in the 19th century. For instance, the 4-way contest in 1860 featured one sitting Senator (Douglas) and one candidate who left the Senate in 1859 (Bell), neither of whom won.

In a similar but different vein, the 4-way race in 1824 featured a sitting Senator (Jackson), the sitting Secretary of State (Adams), the sitting Secretary of the Treasury (Crawford), and the sitting Speaker of the House (Clay).
2.12.2008 5:28pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
It came surprisingly close to happening in 1860. Stephen Douglas was a sitting Senator and John Bell was a Senator until 1858.

In the 1824 election, Jackson was a sitting Senator, Adams and Crawford will former Senators (and were both in the Cabinet when they ran, the only time that's happened), and Henry Clay was a future Senator and incumbent Speaker of the House.
2.12.2008 5:32pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
Matty and I obviously think alike.
2.12.2008 5:34pm
Dave N (mail):
Sitting Senators have a difficult time even being nominated--as 2 posters have noted, only 2 sitting Senators have been elected President--Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy.

However, it is worse than that--sitting Senators have only been nominated a handful of times by either major party. In reverse chronological order, losing U.S. Senators were John Kerry (2004); Robert Dole (1996) (though he resigned from the Senate after being nominated); George McGovern (1972); Barry Goldwater (1964); Robert LaFollette (1924) (as a 3rd party candidate); James G. Blaine (1884); Stephen Douglas (1860); Daniel Webster and Hugh Lawson White (1836) (both as Whigs); Henry Clay (1832); and Rufus King (1816).
2.12.2008 5:44pm
Dave N (mail):
Syd Henderson is right about Andrew Jackson. He should have been on my list as well.

By the way, the only Supreme Court Justice to run for President was Charles Evan Hughes in 1916. He resigned from the Court to run. However, President Hoover appointed Hughes as Chief Justice in 1930. Hughes' son, Charles Evan Hughes, Jr., was Solicitor General for the first month the senior Hughes served as Chief Justice.

William Howard Taft became Chief Justice after serving as President.
2.12.2008 5:52pm
Dave N (mail):
Obviously, since Syd Henderson was right about Andrew Jackson, so was Mattie G. My apologies for not mentioning him in my last post.
2.12.2008 5:56pm
Just Dropping By (mail):
By the way, the only Supreme Court Justice to run for President was Charles Evan Hughes in 1916.

Not entirely correct. Oliver Ellsworth received 11 Electoral College votes in the 1796 presidential election notwithstanding the fact that he was at the time serving as the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. (I've been unable to determine from the limited amount of information on-line regarding the subject whether this was simply the result of "faithless" electors or if he actively sought the office.)
2.12.2008 6:08pm
Dave N (mail):
I am guessing that Oliver Ellsworth did not "run" for President in any traditional sense.
2.12.2008 6:31pm
KeithK (mail):

The office of senator changed a lot after 1914 because of the 17th amendment. Since they were appointed by the state legislators the senator's term tended to be shorter and their focus had to stay on the state or they wouldn't be reappointed.


Exactly. Which is why the seventeenth is the Worst Amendment Ever. From a federalism standpoint anyway.
2.12.2008 6:43pm
theobromophile (www):

Except for Andrew Jackson, no one on that entire list of 15 is considered to have been a particularly good (or effective) president either. There's one that was assassinated, one more that died in office, one that was impeached, one that was almost impeached, plus the Teapot Dome guy who maybe should have been impeached, and then the rest of the roster is composed of seat-fillers.

Yes, which is what we would expect of people with no executive experience. Governor -> President is a move directly up the food chain, from running a state to running a country. Senator -> President is to go from lawmaking to an executive position, which is a completely different set of skills.
2.12.2008 6:56pm
pjohnson (mail):
Another close, but no cigar oddity: John C. Breckenridge was another candidate in 1860 and, although he did not win the Presidency, he was elected to the Senate from Kentucky. So Senator Douglas ran against Senator Candidate Breckenridge for the Presidency.
2.12.2008 7:33pm
Dave N (mail):
pjohnson,

John C. Breckenridge was Vice President. Likewise James Garfield was elected to the Senate in 1880 by the Ohio Legislature before being elected President the same year. Though he was technically a Senator-elect, Garfield was but a mere U.S. Representative at the time of his election to the Presidency.
2.12.2008 8:01pm
Grant Colvin (www):
Note that the only Congressional incumbents elected President (Garfield, Harding, Kennedy) all died in office. If one is superstitious, the selection of running mates this time around would be of greater than usual interest!
2.12.2008 10:09pm
Chris 24601 (mail):
Weren't there any other sitting Representatives elected besides Garfield?
2.12.2008 10:40pm
Freddy Hill:

Yes, which is what we would expect of people with no executive experience. Governor -> President is a move directly up the food chain, from running a state to running a country. Senator -> President is to go from lawmaking to an executive position, which is a completely different set of skills.

It is interesting that the other major executive political job in the US, that of mayor, is not a springboard to the presidency. Witness Giuliani and the fact that no mayor of a large US city has ever become president. One would think that being mayor of NYC, Chicago or LA would qualify somebody for the presidency better than being governor of Arkansas. In France becoming the mayor of Paris automatically makes you a contender for the Presidency of the Republic. Same is true in many other countries. I wonder why American mayors seem to be disqualified to run for higher office?
2.12.2008 11:53pm
theobromophile (www):

Same is true in many other countries. I wonder why American mayors seem to be disqualified to run for higher office?

Probably the assumption that if mayor is good, governor is better? Although the mayor might have had more direct control over the operations of the city, it is not the second-highest position; that would be the state governor.

To analogise: a position as mayor is like being a junior VP. Even if you are the junior VP of a really, really large division, the senior VP of a smaller division may be considered as the next-in-line for the presidency.
2.13.2008 12:39am
Paul B:
Chris,

I believe that Polk was Speaker of the House when elected President.
2.13.2008 1:22am
Paul B:
Chris,

I believe that Polk was Speaker of the House when elected President.
2.13.2008 1:22am
Dave N (mail):
Paul B,

James K. Polk was Speaker of the House from 1831 to 1839--and President from 1845-1849. In the intervening period, he was Governor of Tennessee from 1839-1841.

Other than President Garfield, I am not aware of any President elected directly from the House--though many Presidents have been a member of the House at one point or another.
2.13.2008 1:55am
Freddy Hill:
theobromophile:

Of course a governor is hyerarchically above a mere mayor. But just as a division manager of Microsoft may well command more respect than the president of a 10-employee software sweatshop in the Bay Area, the mayor of New York's management skills must be at least on a par with those of the governor of South Dakota. Not to mention that the Giulianis, Kochs, Daleys, La Guardias of the world had much higher name recognition than any governor from a minor state.
2.13.2008 2:20am
Floridan:
Not to mention that the Giulianis, Kochs, Daleys, La Guardias of the world had much higher name recognition than any governor from a minor state.

The problem is, for what have they been recognized by the American public?
2.13.2008 9:05am
genob:
Interesting that the event is so rare, yet is happening at a time when Congress' approval ratings are at a record (?) low. You'd think electing a sitting member of Congress would be the last thing that the people want, yet that's what we are going to get.
2.13.2008 9:38am
markm (mail):
Freddy: City governments large enough to compare with even a small state have historically been very corrupt, and more recently far to the left of most of the voters in the rest of the USA.
2.13.2008 11:57am