Kamala Harris Could Become the Next Alben W. Barkley – At some point in the history of TV’s Jeopardy, a contestant must have asked, “Who is Alben W. Barkley.” The answer would have been, “the last sitting vice president to seek their party’s nomination for president not to receive it.”
It is true that former Veep Dan Quayle attempted his own comeback in 2000 and dropped out early in the campaign season, eventually endorsing George W. Bush, who went on to defeat Al Gore in the general election. The point to be made here is that Vice President Kamala Harris could face a similar fate to that of VP Barkley should President Joe Biden, for some reason, be unable to run in 2024 or in 2028 after a Biden win.
Being number two doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed the nomination.
Before becoming the 35th vice president of the United States, Barkley had served in both houses of Congress.
However, his age was an issue – and he lost the Democratic nomination to his distant cousin Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson II, who in turn lost the general election to war hero Dwight D. Eisenhower.
As a footnote, perhaps age was an issue as Barkley died in April 1956, and wouldn’t have survived through a first term.
Moreover, Barkley isn’t the only VP to fail to receive their party’s nomination. Thomas R. Marshal, who had been Woodrow Wilson’s Veep, also considered a run in 1920, but it failed to take off and like Barkley, he died just a few years later. Likewise, Charles Warren Fairbanks, who served as vice president for Theodore Roosevelt yet worked against the president’s progressive policies, unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 1908.
Then there was Adlai Stevenson I – grandfather of the aforementioned Illinois governor – who served as VP for Grover Cleveland, and when he failed to win the nomination, simply sought to keep his job by becoming the running mate for William Jennings Bryan. However, the ticket lost to William McKinley.
Kamala Harris Has No Guarantee
It is true in modern history, a sitting VP always has an advantage, and Dick Cheney is now the only recent VP not even to seek the nomination.
However, Al Gore, Hubert Humphrey, and Richard Nixon were VPs that won their respective parties’ nominations only to lose the general election. Eventually, Nixon made a comeback and won the White House in 1968, but Walter Mondale won the nomination in 1984 only to lose in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.
As noted, former Veep Dan Quayle attempted his own comeback and didn’t even win the nomination.
Joe Biden and George H.W. Bush are actually the only two vice presidents in the past half century to successfully go from being vice president to president.
By all indications, it is unlikely Kamala Harris could pull off a similar feat and would more likely only supplant Alben W. Barkley as the last VP to try for the party nomination and not get it.
Author Experience and Expertise: A Senior Editor for 19FortyFive, Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer. He has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites with over 3,200 published pieces over a twenty-year career in journalism. He regularly writes about military hardware, firearms history, cybersecurity, politics, and international affairs. Peter is also a Contributing Writer for Forbes and Clearance Jobs. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.