by Lowman S. Henry | January 30, 2024

Donald Trump has dominated the American political scene since the moment he rode down that now famous Trump Tower escalator to announce his presidential candidacy in 2015. That domination continues and he now has the opportunity to do something only one other person in all of U.S. history has done – be elected to serve two non-consecutive presidential terms.

That Donald Trump will likely be nominated by the Republican Party for the third time also puts him in rare presidential company. Only Franklin Roosevelt was nominated four times, this coming prior to ratification of the 22nd amendment in 1951 which limited presidents to two terms. Roosevelt won a fourth term in 1944 and died shortly thereafter being succeeded in office by Harry S. Truman.

William Jennings Bryan was nominated by the Democrats in 1896, 1900 and 1908 losing twice to William McKinley and once to William Howard Taft. Andrew Jackson was nominated in 1824 losing to John Quincy Adams before again being nominated and winning the White House in 1828 and 1832. Richard M. Nixon also was nominated three times, first in 1960 suffering a narrow loss to John F. Kennedy and then winning the presidency in 1968 and 1972.

Former President Theodore Roosevelt attempted a White House comeback in 1912. He lost the Republican Party nomination to incumbent president William Howard Taft. Roosevelt subsequently formed the Bull Moose Party, divided the vote, and paved the way for Democrat Woodrow Wilson to oust Taft from office.

This brings us to Grover Cleveland. Cleveland stands alone as the only U.S. President to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was first elected in 1884 as the 22nd President of the United States. Cleveland began his career in elective office as Sheriff of Erie County, New York before becoming Mayor of Buffalo and then Governor of the Empire State.

As the Presidential Election of 1884 approached Republicans were in disarray. President James A. Garfield had been assassinated and Vice President Chester A. Arthur ascended to the presidency. Arthur was most noted for his patronage roles in New York City and was selected as Garfield’s running mate as a fence mending concession to fractious New York powerbrokers. He became an accidental president when Garfield, less than a year in office, succumbed to gunshot wounds inflicted by his assassin. Arthur was defeated for nomination at the 1884 Republican National Convention by James C, Blaine. Blaine lost to Cleveland and the Democrats. Arthur died a year later.

In 1888 Cleveland sought re-election facing off against Republican Benjamin Harrison, the grandson of William Henry Harrison who had died just one month into his presidency. Cleveland won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. That was only the second time in U.S. history that had occurred, the first being a few years early in 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes was elected. It would not happen again until the 2000 Presidential election when George W. Bush prevailed in the Electoral College over Al Gore. Donald Trump in 2016 also lost the popular vote, but won the electoral vote.

Undaunted Grover Cleveland ran again in 1892 and in a rematch with Harrison prevailed in both the popular and electoral votes to reclaim the White House. Thus he stands as the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms in office.

So now Donald Trump has the opportunity to accomplish what Teddy Roosevelt could not – become the second U.S. President to be elected to non-consecutive terms. At this point in the process Trump appears poised to claim the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination. Polls show yet another tight race with President Joe Biden who is cruising to the Democratic Party nomination.

What voters this November will get to decide is whether Trump joins Grover Cleveland or Teddy Roosevelt in the annals of American Presidential history.

 (Lowman S. Henry is Chairman & CEO of the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, Inc. and host of the weekly American Radio Journal and Lincoln Radio Journal.  His e-mail address is [email protected].)

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