Walker Records 3rd Shortest Presidential Campaign Since 1972

Only two major party candidates had a briefer White House campaign than the Wisconsin governor in the modern primary era

scottwalker21While it was no secret that Scott Walker’s presidential campaign was struggling mightily days after the second Republican presidential debate, few were prepared for his announcement on Monday that he was withdrawing from the race.

That exit came just 71 days after formally launching his campaign on July 13th.

If that sounds like a short campaign, it is.

Thad McCotter. Tom Vilsack. Larry Pressler. Cliff Finch. Birch Bayh. John Ashbrook. Douglas Wilder. Pete Wilson. All of these presidential candidates lasted longer on the campaign trail than the once-promising Wisconsin politician.

In fact, less than a handful of presidential hopefuls have closed up shop so quickly in the modern political era.

Smart Politics examined the presidential campaign entrances and exits of the more than 170 campaigns launched since 1972 and found that only two were shorter than Scott Walker’s 71 day journey: Democrat Fred Harris of Oklahoma in 1972 and Republican Lowell Weicker of Connecticut in 1980.

This study examined major party presidential candidacies by non-fringe candidates who formally launched presidential campaigns over the last 12 cycles including 2016. Excluded were candidates who only formed exploratory committees (e.g. Pat Schroeder in 1988, Evan Bayh in 2008) or were non-competitive perennial candidates (e.g. Lyndon LaRouche, Harold Stassen).

Since the 1972 cycle, when a majority of states began selecting convention delegates via primaries or caucuses, Walker can only point to two presidential campaigns that were shorter than his 2016 bid.

fredharris1Fred Harris was a two-term Democratic U.S. Senator from Oklahoma when he launched his first presidential campaign on September 24, 1971.

Harris’ White House bid lasted just 48 days when he withdrew on November 10, 1971 due to his campaign being in debt $40,000.

Harris would again run for president four years later and this time lasted 454 days on the campaign trail (from January 11, 1975 to April 8, 1976) but failed to carry any states.

Facing a beleaguered Jimmy Carter presidency, Republicans came out of the woodwork in the 1980 cycle to vie for their party’s nomination to challenge the Democrat.

One of those GOPers was two-term Connecticut U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker who formally announced his candidacy on March 12, 1979.

A self-described “long-shot,” Weicker exited the race just 67 days later on May 17th citing polls showing both Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush well ahead of him in his home state.

Walker’s short-lived campaign lasted four days longer than Weicker’s.

However, what distinguishes Walker from both the Oklahoma and Connecticut U.S. Senators mentioned above is that he was leading in the polls at one point in the cycle (as of late Spring 2015) and dubbed by many as a top-tier candidate if not a front runner.

So how rare is it for a presidential campaign to not even last 100 days?

Of the 170+ presidential candidacies under analysis since 1972, only 10 failed to reach the 100-day mark:

  • Republican Jim Gilmore of Virginia (2008): 80 days
  • Republican Thad McCotter of Michigan (2012): 83 days
  • Democrat Vance Hartke of Indiana (1972): 84 days
  • Republican Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota (2012): 85 days
  • Democrat Tom Vilsack of Iowa (2008): 86 days
  • Democrat Frank Church of Idaho (1976): 89 days
  • Democrat John Lindsay of New York (1972) 99 days

Note: Colorado Democrat Gary Hart’s second bid at the White House was initially cut short at 26 days in May 1987 following the Donna Rice scandal, but Hart reentered the race in December of that year and logged another 88 days on the trail for 114 total days of campaigning in the 1988 cycle.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, the first GOPer to drop out of the 2016 race, lasted 100 days this cycle – two months shy of the 160 days logged by his 2012 campaign.

As for the longest major party presidential campaign among candidates who fell short of their party’s nomination, that distinction belongs to former Alaska U.S. Senator Mike Gravel. Gravel – more than a quarter century out of office – kicked off his 2008 White House campaign on April 17, 2006 and ran for the Democratic nomination for 710 days until he withdrew to seek the Libertarian Party nod on March 26, 2008.

Gravel is followed by Illinois Republican Phil Crane in 1980 (625 days), Arizona Democrat Mo Udall in 1976 (570 days), Delaware Republican Pierre du Pont in 1988 (521 days), Colorado Democrat Gary Hart in 1984 (519 days), Virginia Republican Pat Buchanan in 1996 (514 days), and New York Democrat Hillary Clinton in 2008 (505 days).

Note: Two current 2016 GOP contenders have not yet passed Walker’s 71-day mark and, though unlikely, could still drop out after a shorter run. Through September 23rd, John Kasich’s campaign is 65 days old with Jim Gilmore’s at 56 days.

Length of Failed Major Party Presidential Campaigns, 1972-2016

Cycle Candidate State Party Entered Exited # Days
1972 Fred Harris OK DEM September 24, 1971 November 10, 1971 48
1980 Lowell Weicker CT REP March 12, 1979 May 17, 1979 67
2016 Scott Walker WI REP July 13, 2015 September 21, 2015 71
2008 Jim Gilmore VA REP April 26, 2007 July 14, 2007 80
2012 Thad McCotter MI REP July 2, 2011 September 22, 2011 83
1972 Vance Hartke IN DEM January 3, 1972 March 26, 1972 84
2012 Tim Pawlenty MN REP May 22, 2011 August 14, 2011 85
2008 Tom Vilsack IA DEM November 30, 2006 February 23, 2007 86
1976 Frank Church ID DEM March 18, 1976 June 14, 1976 89
1972 John Lindsay NY DEM December 28, 1971 April 4, 1972 99
2016 Rick Perry TX REP June 4, 2015 September 11, 2015 100
1980 Cliff Finch MS DEM December 24, 1979 April 2, 1980 101
1988 Joe Biden DE DEM June 9, 1987 September 23, 1987 107
1996 Pete Wilson CA REP June 15, 1995 September 29, 1995 107
1980 Larry Pressler SD REP September 25, 1979 January 9, 1980 107
1988 Gary Hart CO DEM April 13, 1987; December 15, 1987 May 8, 1987; March 11, 1988 114
2004 Carol Moseley Braun IL DEM September 22, 2003 January 15, 2004 116
1992 Douglas Wilder VA DEM September 13, 1991 January 8, 1992 118
1976 Robert Byrd WV DEM January 9, 1976 May 11, 1976 124
1976 Jerry Brown* CA DEM March 12, 1976 July 15, 1976 126
1980 Howard Baker TN REP November 1, 1979 March 5, 1980 126
1972 Terry Sanford* NC DEM March 8, 1972 July 13, 1972 128
1972 Wilbur Mills* AR DEM March 5, 1972 July 12, 1972 130
2008 Tommy Thompson WI REP April 4, 2007 August 12, 2007 131
1976 Birch Bayh IN DEM October 21, 1975 March 4, 1976 136
2008 Fred Thompson TN REP September 6, 2007 January 22, 2008 139
1988 Bob Dole KS REP November 9, 1987 March 29, 1988 142
1980 Jerry Brown CA DEM November 8, 1979 April 1, 1980 146
1972 Walter Fauntroy DC DEM December 7, 1971 May 2, 1972 148
2004 Wesley Clark AR DEM September 16, 2003 February 11, 2004 149
2000 John Kasich OH REP February 15, 1999 July 14, 1999 150
2004 Bob Graham FL DEM May 6, 2003 October 6, 2003 154
1992 Bob Kerrey NE DEM September 30, 1991 March 5, 1992 158
2012 Rick Perry TX REP August 13, 2011 January 19, 2012 160
2000 Lamar Alexander TN REP March 9, 1999 August 16, 1999 161
1972 John Ashbrook OH REP December 29, 1971 June 7, 1972 162
2000 John McCain AZ REP September 27, 1999 March 9, 2000 165
2000 Dan Quayle IN REP April 14, 1999 September 27, 1999 167
2004 John Edwards NC DEM September 16, 2003 March 2, 2004 169
1976 Milton Shapp PA DEM September 25, 1975 March 12, 1976 170
1988 Jim Traficant OH DEM November 15, 1987 May 3, 1988 171
1972 Shirley Chisholm* NY DEM January 25, 1972 July 13, 1972 171
1996 Steve Forbes NY REP September 22, 1995 March 14, 1996 175
1992 Tom Harkin IA DEM September 15, 1991 March 9, 1992 177
1972 George Wallace* AL DEM January 13, 1972 July 13, 1972 183
2000 Bill Bradley NJ DEM September 8, 1999 March 9, 2000 184
1984 George McGovern SD DEM September 13, 1983 March 14, 1984 184
1972 Hubert Humphrey* MN DEM January 10, 1972 July 11, 1972 184
1976 Sargent Shriver MD DEM September 20, 1975 March 22, 1976 185
1988 Pat Robertson VA REP October 1, 1987 April 6, 1988 189
1972 Edmund Muskie* ME DEM January 4, 1972 July 11, 1972 190
2012 Michele Bachmann MN REP June 27, 2011 January 4, 2012 192
1972 Sam Yorty CA DEM November 16, 1971 June 6, 1972 204
2012 Herman Cain GA REP May 21, 2011 December 11, 2011 205
1972 Eugene McCarthy MN DEM December 17, 1971 July 12, 1972 209
2000 Orrin Hatch UT REP July 2, 1999 January 26, 2000 209
2012 John Huntsman UT REP June 21, 2011 January 16, 2012 210
1976 George Wallace AL DEM November 12, 1975 June 9, 1976 211
2008 Alan Keyes** MD REP September 14, 2007 April 15, 2008 215
2012 Buddy Roemer** LA REP July 21, 2011 February 22, 2012 217
2000 Elizabeth Dole NC REP March 10, 1999 October 20, 1999 225
1972 Scoop Jackson* WA DEM November 19, 1971 July 13, 1972 238
2000 Pat Buchanan** VA REP March 2, 1999 October 25, 1999 238
1996 Arlen Specter PA REP March 30, 1995 November 22, 1995 238
2004 Howard Dean VT DEM June 23, 2003 February 18, 2004 241
1976 Ellen McCormack NY DEM November 16, 1975 July 15, 1976 243
1972 Pete McCloskey CA REP July 9, 1971 March 10, 1972 246
1976 Terry Sanford NC DEM May 19, 1975 January 25, 1976 252
2012 Gary Johnson NM REP April 21, 2011 December 28, 2011 252
1992 Pat Buchanan VA REP December 10, 1991 August 17, 1992 252
2000 Bob Smith NH REP February 18, 1999 October 28, 1999 253
1984 Jesse Jackson* IL DEM November 3, 1983 July 19, 1984 260
2008 Tom Tancredo CO REP April 2, 2007 December 20, 2007 263
1996 Morry Taylor MI REP June 17, 1995 March 8, 1996 266
1992 Jerry Brown* CA DEM October 21, 1991 July 16, 1992 270
2008 Sam Brownback KS REP January 20, 2007 October 19, 2007 273
1976 Ronald Reagan* CA REP November 20, 1975 August 19, 1976 274
1980 Ted Kennedy* MA DEM November 7, 1979 August 11, 1980 279
2004 Dennis Kucinich OH DEM October 13, 2003 July 22, 2004 284
1988 Jesse Jackson* SC DEM October 10, 1987 July 21, 1988 286
2000 Gary Bauer KY REP April 21, 1999 February 4, 2000 290
2008 Rudy Giuliani NY REP April 12, 2007 January 30, 2008 294
1988 Al Gore TN DEM June 29, 1987 April 22, 1988 299
1980 Bob Dole KS REP May 14, 1979 March 15, 1980 307
2012 Rick Santorum PA REP June 6, 2011 April 10, 2012 310
2000 Alan Keyes MD REP September 20, 1999 July 25, 2000 310
1984 Ernest Hollings SC DEM April 18, 1983 March 1, 1984 319
1980 John Anderson** IL REP June 8, 1979 April 24, 1980 322
1996 Dick Lugar IN REP April 19, 1995 March 6, 1996 323
1992 Paul Tsongas MA DEM April 30, 1991 March 19, 1992 325
1988 Paul Simon IL DEM May 18, 1987 April 7, 1988 326
1988 Alexander Haig PA REP March 24, 1987 February 12, 1988 326
1992 Larry Agran* CA DEM August 22, 1991 July 16, 1992 330
1984 John Glenn OH DEM April 21, 1983 March 16, 1984 331
2000 Steve Forbes NJ REP March 16, 1999 February 10, 2000 332
2004 Dick Gephardt MO DEM February 19, 2003 January 20, 2004 336
2008 Joe Biden DE DEM January 31, 2007 January 3, 2008 338
1988 Jack Kemp NY REP April 6, 1987 March 10, 1988 340
1988 Bruce Babbitt AZ DEM March 10, 1987 February 18, 1988 346
1996 Alan Keyes MD REP March 26, 1995 March 6, 1996 347
2008 Bill Richardson NM DEM January 21, 2007 January 10, 2008 355
1996 Phil Gramm TX REP February 24, 1995 February 14, 1996 356
2008 Chris Dodd CT DEM January 11, 2007 January 3, 2008 358
2012 Newt Gingrich GA REP May 11, 2011 May 2, 2012 358
1976 Lloyd Bentsen TX DEM Feburary 17, 1975 February 10, 1976 359
2008 Duncan Hunter CA REP January 25, 2007 January 19, 2008 360
2008 Mitt Romney MA REP Feburary 13, 2007 February 7, 2008 360
1984 Reubin Askew FL DEM February 23, 1983 March 1, 1984 373
1996 Lamar Alexander TN REP February 28, 1995 March 6, 1996 373
2004 Joe Lieberman CT DEM January 13, 2003 February 3, 2004 387
1980 George H.W. Bush TX REP May 1, 1979 May 26, 1980 392
1984 Alan Cranston CA DEM February 2, 1983 February 29, 1984 393
2008 John Edwards NC DEM December 28, 2006 January 30, 2008 399
1988 Dick Gephardt MO DEM February 23, 1987 March 28, 1988 400
2008 Mike Huckabee AR REP January 28, 2007 March 4, 2008 402
2008 Dennis Kucinich OH DEM December 11, 2006 January 24, 2008 410
1980 John Connally TX REP January 24, 1979 March 9, 1980 411
2004 Al Sharpton NY DEM January 3, 2003 March 15, 2004 438
1976 Scoop Jackson WA DEM February 6, 1975 May 1, 1976 451
1976 Fred Harris OK DEM January 11, 1975 April 8, 1976 454
2008 Ron Paul TX REP March 12, 2007 June 12, 2008 459
2012 Ron Paul* TX REP May 13, 2011 August 28, 2012 474
1996 Bob Dornan* CA REP April 13, 1995 August 14, 1996 490
2008 Hillary Clinton NY DEM January 20, 2007 June 7, 2008 505
1996 Pat Buchanan* VA REP March 20, 1995 August 14, 1996 514
1984 Gary Hart* CO DEM February 17, 1983 July 19, 1984 519
1988 Pierre du Pont IV DE REP September 16, 1986 February 18, 1988 521
1976 Mo Udall* AZ DEM November 23, 1974 June 14, 1976 570
1980 Phil Crane IL REP August 2, 1978 April 17, 1980 625
2008 Mike Gravel** AK DEM April 17, 2006 March 26, 2008 710

Through September 22, 2016. * Did not withdraw / continued campaign until party convention. ** Withdrew from major party bid to third or independent party. Table compiled by Smart Politics.

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1 Comment on "Walker Records 3rd Shortest Presidential Campaign Since 1972"

  1. While Harris’ (initial) ’72 WH bid is noteworthy for its brief duration, his final run in the 1976 cycle was arguably much more consequential. Had he stayed out, AZ Representative “Mo” Udall – a pol competing for the same left-leaning bloc – might well have won the Iowa Precinct Caucuses (perhaps finishing behind only the “Uncommitted” slate), and have become his party’s nominee that cycle – or, at least, provided a much tougher intraparty competition for one James Earl Carter, helping him (far) better prepare for what turned out to be an underwhelming (though still successful) challenge to a twice-unelected (neither for Prez nor Veep) incumbent.

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