Who wants to be Vice President? The position is generally regarded as a thankless job with little responsibility. In fact, until the 12th Amendment was ratified in 1804 the only way to become Vice President was to come in second place (first loser) in a Presidential election.
But being VP is often viewed as solid career positioning for those hoping to be President one day. I wanted to find out if this was really a smart career move so I did some digging into the political careers of every VP in U.S. history to find out if being the Vice President makes you a more electable Presidential candidate.
38 people have won a Presidential election.
There have been 44 Presidencies and 43 individuals have held the office (Grover Cleveland had 2 non-consecutive terms). 5 of those men assumed the Presidency as the result of a Presidential death or resignation and never went on to win the office in an election.
16 VPs unsuccessfully sought the office of the President before becoming Vice President.
28 Veeps sought the office of the President after being Vice President.
This includes the 9 VPs who assumed the Presidency because of a Presidential death or resignation and then ran for President in a proper election.
9 of these post-VP Presidential hopefuls were successful:
- John Adams
- Thomas Jefferson
- Martin Van Buren
- Theodore Roosevelt
- Calvin Coolidge
- Harry S. Truman
- Richard Nixon
- Lyndon B. Johnson
- George H.W. Bush
32% of the Veeps who ran for President won (9 of 28).
24% of all Presidential election winners (9 of 38) had “Vice President” on their resume.
For perspective, the following traits are more strongly correlated with winning a Presidential election than having been VP:
4 of the former VPs who went on to win a Presidential election had an unfair advantage over the other 5: they had “Vice President” AND “President” on their resumes.
That’s because they assumed the Presidency after a Presidential death, then subsequently ran for President. If you take these 4 out of the cohort of winners, former VPs only have a 13% win rate.
So, is being the Vice President a good idea if you want to be President? It’s hard to say definitively, but it’s far from a safe bet.Full List of Vice Presidents
|Veep||POTUS||Became President||Ran for POTUS BEFORE being Veep||Ran for POTUS AFTER being Veep|
|John Adams||George Washington||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Thomas Jefferson||John Adams||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Aaron Burr||Thomas Jefferson||Yes|
|Elbridge Gerry*||James Madison|
|Daniel D. Tompkins||James Monroe||Yes|
John C. Calhoun**
|John Quincy Adams||
|Martin Van Buren||Andrew Jackson||Yes||Yes|
|Richard M. Johnson||Martin Van Buren||Yes||Yes|
|John Tyler||William Henry Harrison*||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|George M. Dallas||James K. Polk|
|Millard Fillmore||Zachary Taylor*||Yes||Yes|
|William King*||Franklin Pierce|
|John C. Breckinridge||James Buchanan||Yes|
|Hannibal Hamlin||Abraham Lincoln|
|Andrew Johnson||Abraham Lincoln*||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Schuyler Colfax||Ulyssess S. Grant||Yes|
|Henry Wilson*||Ulyssess S. Grant|
|William Wheeler||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|Chester Arthur||James A. Garfield*||Yes|
|Thomas Hendricks*||Grover Cleveland||Yes|
|Levi P. Morton||Benjamin Harrison||Yes|
|Adlai E. Stevenson||Grover Cleveland||Yes|
|Garret Hobart*||William McKinley|
|Theodore Roosevelt||William McKinley*||Yes||Yes|
|Charles Fairbanks||Theodore Roosevelt||Yes|
|James S. Sherman*||William Howard Taft|
|Thomas R. Marshall||Woodrow Wilson||Yes|
|Calvin Coolidge||Warren G. Harding*||Yes||Yes|
|Charles Dawes||Calvin Coolidge|
|Charles Curtis||Herbert Hoover|
|John Nance Garner||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Yes|
|Henry A. Wallace||Franklin D. Roosevelt||Yes|
|Harry S. Truman||Franklin D. Roosevelt*||Yes||Yes|
|Alben Barkley||Harry S. Truman||Yes|
|Richard Nixon||Dwight D. Eisenhower||Yes||Yes|
|Lyndon B. Johnson||John F. Kennedy*||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hubert Humphrey||Lyndon B. Johnson||Yes||Yes|
|Spiro Agnew**||Richard Nixon|
|Gerald Ford||Richard Nixon**||Yes||Yes|
|Nelson Rockefeller||Gerald Ford||Yes|
|Walter Mondale||Jimmy Carter||Yes|
|George H.W. Bush||Ronald Reagan||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Dan Quayle||George H.W. Bush||Yes|
|Al Gore||Bill Clinton||Yes||Yes|
|Dick Cheney||George W. Bush|
|Joe Biden||Barack Obama||Yes|