Inexperienced Presidents a Rare Club

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2016 Presidential Election

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November 8, 2016

Very few U.S. Presidents have been elected to the highest office in the Executive Branch without having ever held elective office. In fact, the number is five, including Donald Trump.

Founding Father George Washington had no political experience before being elected President. He did have military experience, having most recently won the Revolutionary War. Washington served two terms as President, 1789–1797.

Another war hero, Ulysses S. Grant, had only his military experience to call on to bolster his credentials as a presidential candidate. Grant had not been elected to any level of government before running for President; his war hero status, leading the Union Army to victory in the Civil War, played a part in his success, and he served two terms as President, 1869–1877.

Herbert Hoover served one term, 1929–1933. He had been Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. Hoover was also well-known as the head of the U.S. Food Administration during World War I.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was well-known as a victorious general and the architect of the D-Day landings by the time he ran for President. Eisenhower's miltary success and his celebrity status were major factors in his winning two terms, serving 1953–1961.

Seven Presidents have been elected without having held elective office only as high as the state level. In every case, the President had been a state governor. Those seven are these:

The last unsuccessful presidential nominee with elective experience was Wendell Wilkie, who won the Republican Party nomination in 1940 but lost the general election to the incumbent, Franklin D. Roosevelt.



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