"[An] engaging study of men who came up short in the presidential arena but still had a significant effect on the life of the nation…." —Wall Street Journal "Scott Farris shines a welcome spotlight on the neglected subject of presidential also-rans. In this impressive new book, Farris shows that the losers and their ideas have sometimes transformed their political parties, and moved the nation ahead. Meticulously researched, Almost President is rich in detail and anecdotes, and a pleasure to read." —Joseph Wheelan, author of Mr. Adams's Last Crusade: John Quincy Adams's Extraordinary Post-Presidential Life in Congress and Libby Prison Breakout "Scott Farris has penned a series of fascinating portraits of candidates who triggered sea changes in our political process. Informative to readers at all levels." —David Pietrusza, author of 1948: Harry Truman's Improbable Victory and the Year that Transformed America "To those demoralized by today's fiercely partisan political arena, take heart! Scott Farris's superb history of losing Presidential candidates reassures us all that even out of bitter campaigns and defeats, losers do come back and contribute profoundly to major realignments, decency, and equality in American politics." —The Honorable David Abshire, former Ambassador to NATO, and current President, Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress "Farris writes with a lively flair, skillfully illustrating his solid historical research with revelatory anecdotes and facts." –Publishers Weekly "A lively, opinionated examination of the instructive role of the loser in presidential races…. [R]iveting, sympathetic treatments…. A most useful aide-mémoire for situating the upcoming presidential slugfest." —Kirkus Reviews
From the Inside Flap
"I would rather be right than be president."—Henry Clay, 1824, 1832, 1844 presidential runner-up Henry Clay is one of a dozen men profiled in the chapters of Almost President, men who have run for the American presidency and lost but who—even in defeat—have had a greater impact on our history than many of those who have served in the Oval Office. Veteran political journalist Scott Farris tells the stories of these legendary figures, from Clay to Stephen Douglas, from William Jennings Bryan to Thomas Dewey, and from Adlai Stevenson to Al Gore. He also includes concise profiles of every major candidate nominated for president who never reached the White House but who helped promote the success of American democracy. Farris explains how Barry Goldwater achieved the party realignment that had eluded FDR, how George McGovern paved the way for Barack Obama, and how Ross Perot changed the way all presidential candidates campaign. There is Al Smith, the first Catholic nominee for president; and Adlai Stevenson, the candidate of the "eggheads" who remains the beau ideal of a liberal statesman. And Farris explores the potential legacies of recent runners-up John Kerry and John McCain. The book also includes compact and evocative portraits of such men as John C. Fremont, the first Republican Party presidential candidate; and General Winfield Scott, whose loss helped guarantee the Union victory in the Civil War. Almost President reveals that losers often show more foresight than winners, that being ahead of their time is one cause of their defeat, and that losing, like the demolition of a house, can be an opportunity for reconstruction of a political party and the nation. Losing presidential campaigns have created new political alignments and broken down barriers to participation for a wide variety of groups, from Catholics to women. And losing presidential candidates, by conceding victory graciously—an uncommon occurrence in many other nations—ensure that our American democracy works.