Presidents don't last longPosted Wednesday, October 29, 2008, at 10:14 AM
If your party doesn't win the presidency next Tuesday, have heart. Less than a third of the presidents in the history of the United States have served two full terms.
In fact, since the end of the Eisenhower administration, only three of the nine presidents have served two terms, which is about par for the course.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected to four terms, but died only a couple months into his fourth term, so if you include Truman as functionally serving eight full years in office, that means that only 14 of the 43 presidents who have served this nation held office for two full consecutive terms (I'm not counting Grover Cleveland who served two terms, but did so in two single-term stretches, with Benjamin Harrison's four-year presidency in between).
Of the first seven presidents, from Washington (1789-97) through Andrew Jackson (1829-37), only two didn't serve two terms -- the two Adams, John (1797-1801) and his son, John Quincy (1825-1829), were only elected once.
But after that, in the 64 years between the end of the Jackson administration and Teddy Roosevelt's administration at the start of the 20th century, only one president, whose administration was rocked by corruption scandals from start to finish, served two full consecutive terms -- Ulysses S. Grant. Being a war hero has its advantages.
In fact, during that 64-year period, the average term of a president was only 3.5 years in office, because four of the presidents died, three having served a year or less.
Which is why the vice presidential candidate on a party's ticket actually is important, despite a constitutional duty that only gives them the power to break a tie vote in the senate.
Voters have gone to the polls and elected 34 presidents (well, 33 if you count Cleveland only once). Nine times those presidents did not finish their terms in office. That means better than one in four vice presidents became president.
Four presidents died in office (William Hentry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding and Franklin Delano Roosevelt), four were assassinated (Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John Kennedy), and one resigned (Richard Nixon).
In the 220 years since we began electing presidents under the Constitution of the United States, the 43 presidents have averaged only 5.1 years in office.
Recent history, then, in which three of the last four presidents have served two full terms, is actually an aberration. Historically, the odds are heavily against a president serving two full terms.
It's a tough job to get, and an even tougher one to keep.
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