I believe it's true that every elected president has survived the campaign trail, so I'm not sure how useful a metric that is. – @Avi in a comment.

I'm curious if that's an accurate belief. Limiting the scope to US Presidency, did any of the Presidents who actually won the election (as opposed to succeeding a resigned/dead predecessor) win it without an extensive election campaigning?

I can narrow down "extensive election campaigning" if necessary.

  • 2
    George Washington's terms were by almost? clear public acclamation. "America's first presidential campaign was really its citizens' efforts to convince Washington to accept the office. Letters poured into Mount Vernon—from citizens great and small, from former comrades in arms, even from other shores." (Quoted from a political analysis of presidential politics - millercenter.org/president/washington)
    – wbogacz
    Sep 20, 2013 at 14:13
  • I don't think the extensiveness of the campaign was really relevant to my statement, but regardless it's an interesting question, so +1.
    – Publius
    Sep 21, 2013 at 0:50

1 Answer 1


William Henry Harrison, in 1840 is often considered to be the first President to campaign. His slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" was considered widely successful. His "Log Cabin campaign" was a repudiation of the prior practice of steadily working one's way up within a faction. As such, technically the answer to your question then would be (and I'm doing this from memory!):

George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren.

Additionally, until William Jennings Bryan, who ran against William McKinley in 1896, most campaigns were "front porch campaigns", meaning they were rather low key affairs in which it was considered unseemly for the candidate to do anything other than give the occasional speech. Bryan, a young vibrant Populist at the time, rather shocked the establishment by delivering over 600 speeches and making in-person appearances. While he lost (and would go on to lose 4 more times), he nonetheless showed the power of personally crafting the messages which the new media that would soon follow (telegraph, radio, etc...) would exploit.

Indeed, even as late as Woodrow Wilson (a face made for radio), directly communicating with "the American people" was considered somewhat novel. Wilson's tour to sell the League of Nations to the country was conisdered a novelty. Wilson's successor - Harding is often considered the first candidate picked for looks instead of a message, and FDR was really the first to use the airwaves extensively in his campaigns. (Calvin Coolidge in particular was known to loathe public occasions and avoided them as much as possible. While he used the radio, he didn't particularly like it, and called it "a technology of the future," not the present.)

Much of this (and a lot more) is sourced at My History Can Beat Up Your Politics, an excellent podcast on the history of the American Presidency, by Bruce Carlson.

  • Ooh, nice link!
    – Bobson
    Oct 25, 2013 at 19:08

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