Re-elected Incumbent Presidents a Select Group
Seventeen of the 44 American Presidents have been re-elected incumbents.
George Washington was the first, following up his initial election in 1788 with a re-election in 1792. Washington, who did not belong to a political party, declined to run again, setting a precedent that would last for 148 years.
Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, all members of the Democratic-Republican Party, each served two consecutive terms. Jefferson won re-election in 1804, Madison in 1816, and Monroe in 1820. All three followed Washington's example and retired after their second term.
John Quincy Adams won the disputed election of 1824 but did not win re-election, losing out to Andrew Jackson in 1828. Jackson, the first candidate of the newly established Democratic Party, won re-election.
Jackson's successor, Martin van Buren, was the first of a series of one-term presidents. Van Buren won the presidency in 1836 but lost his re-election campaign in 1840 to William Henry Harrison, the first Whig President. Harrison, America's shortest-serving president, died of an illness contracted while he was giving his inaugural address.
Harrison's Vice-president, John Tyler, was President for what would have been Harrison's term but was expelled from the Whig Party and so did not represent his party further.
Democrat James K. Polk won the election of 1844 but did not seek re-election because of poor health. (He died months after he left office.)
Winning the presidency in 1848 was Zachary Taylor, a Whig who died 16 months into his term and was succeeded by his Vice-President, Millard Fillmore, who served out what would have been Taylor's term but then was not nominated by his party.
The election of 1852 resulted in another Democratic presidency, that of Franklin Pierce. As happened to Tyler and Fillmore, Pierce was not renominated by his political party. The Democratic nominee was James Buchanan, who did win in 1856.
The impending Civil War split the country in more ways than one. The Democratic Party descended into political uncertainty that resulted in a Northern Democratic Party and a Southern Democratic Party. Buchanan was not nominated to run for re-election. The winner in the election of 1860 was Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln, the first candidate of the Republican Party, won re-election in 1864, in the middle of the Civil War, with votes coming only from Northern states. When Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, his Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, assumed the presidency.
Johnson, a Democratic, was not nominated for re-election. The winner in 1868 was war hero Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican. Grant was re-elected in 1872, then retired to private life.
The disputed election of 1876 resulted in the presidency of Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, who promised to seek only one term and kept his promise.
Arthur didn't mount a serious bid for re-election because of failing health. (He died in 1886.) The battle to succeed him began a string of three straight elections between the same two major candidates. Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, won in 1884 but lost to Republican Benjamin Harrison in 1888. The election of 1892 went to Cleveland. So technically, neither man won re-election.
The Democratic Party did not renominate Cleveland in 1896. The winner that year was Republican William McKinley, who won re-election in 1900 and was assassinated the following year. Vice-president Theodore Roosevelt ascended to the presidency and won re-election in 1904.
A split in the Republican Party in 1908 resulted in the nomination of not Roosevelt but William Howard Taft, who won the presidency. Renominated in 1912, Taft lost to Democrat Woodrow Wilson, in part because Roosevelt ran as a third-party candidate. (Roosevelt got more electoral votes than Taft did.)
Wilson won re-election in 1916, becoming the first Democratic President to do so. He did not run for re-election in 1920, and the winner that year was Republican Warren G. Harding.
With the country in the grips of the Great Depression, Hoover did not win re-election in 1932, losing to Franklin D. Roosevelt. The Democrat won re-election three times and died in office early in his fourth term, in 1945. Vice-President Harry Truman became President.
Truman's re-election bid was successful in 1948. He did not run again in 1952. (After Roosevelt's four elections, Americans approved the Twenty-second Amendment, limiting the President to two terms in office. Since Truman was in office when the amendment was approved, it did not apply to him.)
War hero Dwight D. Eisenhower, a Republican, won the election of 1952 and won re-election four years later. He was succeeded by Democrat John F. Kennedy, who won the election of 1960 and was assassinated in 1963.
Kennedy's Vice-president, Lyndon B. Johnson, became President and then won re-election in 1964 but decided not to run in 1968. The winner that year was Republican Richard Nixon, who won re-election in 1972.
Republican George W. Bush won in 2000 and was re-elected in 2004.
Bush's successor, Barack Obama, won election in 2008 and was re-elected in 2012.