All Hail The Presidential Also-Rans Hillary Clinton joins the exclusive club of men who reached for, but failed to grasp, our nation's highest elected office. From Aaron Burr to Al Gore, here's a look at the company Clinton joins.
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All Hail The Presidential Also-Rans

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All Hail The Presidential Also-Rans

All Hail The Presidential Also-Rans

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The glass ceiling shattered in one of history's most exclusive clubs this week - the presidential also-rans. Hillary Clinton is now the first woman nominated by a major party to join the ranks of men who failed to win our nation's highest office. And as NPR producer Melissa Gray tells it, perhaps, there is some comfort in their company.

MELISSA GRAY, BYLINE: It's a rabbit hole researching the also-rans, but it's a fun dive. First, you got to love those 19th-century names. Rufus King - he lost to Monroe. Horatio Seymour - he lost to Grant.

And then there are the nicknames. Winfield Scott - he was called old fuss and feathers because he was a stickler for military formality. Scott was the army general who lost to Franklin Pierce. And later, he was called old fat and feeble. Yeah, tweet that. And then there are the legacies which are just depressing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALEXANDER HAMILTON")

LESLIE ODOM JR: (As Aaron Burr) I'm the damn fool that shot him.

GRAY: Aaron Burr, sir, made a bid for the White House, lost out to Thomas Jefferson, became vice president and killed a Founding Father.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALEXANDER HAMILTON")

UNIDENTIFIED CHOIR: (As characters, singing) Alexander Hamilton.

GRAY: Thanks to the hit musical "Hamilton," we can all sing and rap - some of us badly - about that event. But not covered on Broadway - what happened to Burr after the duel.

H W BRANDS: He was really persona non grata.

GRAY: That's H.W. Brands, author of "The Heartbreak Of Aaron Burr."

BRANDS: First of all, he had to go back to Washington to serve out his term as vice president.

GRAY: With Hamilton's Federalist friends staring hateful holes right through him - awkward. Burr's career in politics was toast. He also owed people money. So he headed west to start a new life. And then Aaron Burr was arrested for treason.

BRANDS: His critics claimed that he was going to peel off the southwestern states from the union and in conjunction with the northern part of Mexico, which was still attached to Spain, create an empire of his own.

GRAY: Burr was tried and acquitted. Brand says he eventually moved back to New York and lived for a while under an assumed name - sad.

What's not so sad? Charles Evans Hughes - that's what's not so sad. He's the Supreme Court justice who stepped down to run against Woodrow Wilson. And a few years later, he stepped back up as chief justice. Well played, sir - and great facial hair.

OK, let's get to the also-rans you might be more familiar with. Here's historian Jon Meacham.

JON MEACHAM: Sometimes you have people who simply are so traumatized, if you will, by having come so close to grabbing the brass ring that they fall back, and they enter a kind of Cincinnatus-like obscurity.

GRAY: Meaning, like the Roman statesmen, they gave up power and returned to a quiet life. He's thinking of Thomas Dewey and...

MEACHAM: Michael Dukakis has been like that.

MEACHAM: It is a grueling thing to run for president. And Meacham says that's especially true of the last few decades with elections so tight. When you lose, the pain is deep. But there are failed candidates who do overcome the hurt.

MEACHAM: And they find a way back in.

GRAY: To serve the country in some official capacity. We're talking about Senators Barry Goldwater and John McCain, Ambassadors Adlai Stevenson and Walter Mondale, Secretary of State John Kerry. And then there's Al Gore.

MEACHAM: If I had been Al Gore, who won the popular vote but I lost because of 500 or so votes in Florida, I'd still be under the bed. I would still be ordering in cases of Jack Daniels.

GRAY: He's talking of course about the 2000 election. Meacham says he admires how Al Gore has moved on with his life.

MEACHAM: Emerging from the pain of that loss, Gore dedicated himself to the issue that has driven him for so long, which is climate change. He wins the Nobel Prize, which is not a bad consolation.

GRAY: Better maybe than drinking Jack Daniels under the bed - just saying. Meacham's thoughts on our newest also-ran - no Cincinnatus-like obscurity for her. Hillary Clinton, he suspects, will rebound from what he calls the ultimate punch in American politics. Melissa Gray, NPR News.

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