Will Trump be a one-term president? Here’s the list of the Commanders-in-Chief denied a second term

As Election Day approaches, the fate of President Donald Trump’s administration nears.

Will Trump stay in the White House for four more years? Or will the Republican incumbent become a one-term U.S. president?

From John Adams to George H.W. Bush, nearly 10 Commanders-in-Chief throughout U.S. history have run for re-election and lost.

The answer to whether or not Trump will add to that list is just a few days away. But as the nation casts their ballots in anticipation of the outcome, let’s take a look into the past — at U.S. presidents who didn’t get a second four years because they were denied by voters in the general election. 

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George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush

The most recent one-term president was George H.W. Bush. The Republican incumbent served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993, but lost re-election to Democrat William (Bill) Clinton, who went on to complete two terms.

Bush’s White House biography attributes his defeat to the country’s “discontent at home from a faltering economy, rising violence in inner cities, and continued high deficit spending.”

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter with Rosalynn Carter at the National Convention in Madison Square Garden in New York on July 15, 1976.

The 39th president of the United States, Democrat James (Jimmy) Carter, served from 1977 to 1981. He lost his re-election campaign to Republican Ronald Reagan, who went on to two full terms.

Carter’s biography points to several factors that contributed to his loss — including a short recession and the hostage-taking of U.S. embassy staff in Iran. On the day Carter left office, Iran released 52 Americans.

Gerald Ford

President Gerald Ford reads a proclamation pardoning Richard Nixon on Sept 8, 1974.

Serving from 1974 to 1977, Gerald Ford was the 38thpresident of the United States. The Republican incumbent lost re-election to President Carter.

Following the resignation of President Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal, Ford became the first unelected president in U.S. history. Ford’s controversial pardon of Nixon had consequences — and many blame it (along with numerous issues including a poor economy and the fall of South Vietnam) to have cost him the presidency.

Herbert Hoover

President Herbert Hoover presided over the worst economic downturn in U.S. history. In October 1929, just eight months after Hoover took office, the stock market plummeted in a massive selloff. Hoover's efforts to revitalize the economy by supporting financial institutions with government loans proved insufficient. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by a staggering 82.1% under Hoover. Due largely to poor economic conditions, Hoover was a single-term president, losing to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt by a landslide.

Republican Herbert Hoover was the 31stpresident of the United States, serving from 1929 to 1933. He lost re-election to Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, who went on to complete three full terms.

Within months of Hoover’s election, the stock market crashed — spiraling the country into the Great Depression.

“His opponents in Congress, who he felt were sabotaging his program for their own political gain, unfairly painted him as a callous and cruel President,” reads his White House biography. “Hoover became the scapegoat for the Depression and was badly defeated in 1932.”

William Howard Taft

In this 1912 photo, President William Howard Taft is seen throwing out the first ball on opening day for baseball, to start the season for the Washington Senators in Washington.

The 27th president of the United States, Republican William Howard Taft, served from 1909 to 1913. He lost his re-election campaign to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, who went on to complete two full terms.

According to Taft’s biography, the president “alienated many liberal Republicans who later formed the Progressive Party.” The party’s divide ended his presidency. When Republicans renominated Taft in 1912, Roosevelt left to lead to Progressives, guaranteeing the election of Wilson.

Benjamin Harrison

President Benjamin Harrison.

Serving from 1889 to 1893, Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president of the United States. The Republican incumbent lost re-election to Democrat Grover Cleveland.

Many point to growing discontent of third-party Populists, unpopularity of high tariffs and government spending at contributors to his defeat. 

Harrison had initially replaced Cleveland in the Democrat’s 1888 campaign for re-election. But Cleveland ran again in 1892 and won — making him a two-term (though not consecutive) president.

Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren was president during the financial panic of 1837. His debate with Congress over his proposal for the creation of an independent treasury, which passed, was so bitter it drove some Democrats into the Whig Party. Van Buren also supported cutting off all federal government expenses in order to keep the government running.

The 8th president of the United States, Democrat Martin Van Buren, served from 1837 to 1841. He lost his re-election campaign to William Henry Harrison of the Whig party, who died not long after taking office.

His biography points to the panic of 1837, where hundreds of banks and businesses failed — halting prosperity the country had witnessed in recent years. Van Buren “devoted himself to maintaining the solvency of the national Government,” but his remedies prolonged the depression, and he lost reelection.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) served from 1825-1829 as president.

Serving from 1825 to 1829, John Quincy Adams of the Whig party was the 6th president of the United States. The incumbent lost re-election to Andrew Jackson of the Democratic-Republicans.

According to his White House biography, Adams’ loss is attributed to Jacksonian opponents’ accusations of corruption and public plunder — “an ordeal Adams did not easily bear.”

John Adams

President John Adams was in office from 1797 to 1801.

The first one-term president was John Adams. The Federalist incumbent served as the 2nd president of the United States from 1797 to 1801, but lost re-election to Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson.

“In the campaign of 1800 the Republicans were united and effective, the Federalists badly divided,” Adams’ biography reads, noting that Adams polled just a few electoral votes less than Jefferson. 

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