As early as this morning, I would have bet (not a lot, but certainly something) that Joe Biden was going to toss his hat into the ring and run for the Democrat’s nomination to succeed his boss. He would have been a formidable challenger to Hillary Clinton, a candidate increasingly seen as a polarizing figure. Biden’s poll numbers against Republicans were better in key battleground states like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. But, alas, it was not to be. Whether it was family or pressure from the Party, Biden decided that there was no path forward.
I began to wonder: “When was the last time a Democrat President’s Vice President did not run for the nation’s top job?”
Clearly, Al Gore ran after Bill Clinton was term-limited. Walter Mondale ran after Jimmy Carter (though Carter had lost the election beforehand). Hubert Humphrey ran and was nominated after Johnson was term-limited. Alben Barkley ran after Truman (he lost to Adalai Stevenson, also a former Vice President, on the path to the nomination). Thomas Marshall ran after Wilson (though he, like Barkley, lost in the primary process). Adalai Stevenson, as noted earlier, ran several times and was the nominee after serving Grover Cleveland. John Breckinridge ran to succeed James Buchannan.
The answer: George Dallas. From 1845-1849 Dallas (the namesake of Dallas, TX) served as the Vice President for James K. Polk. He was the last Democratic Vice President not to seek the Presidency.
If Democrats want to take solace in the fact that George Dallas’ rival, James Buchannan, became the next President, just remember the unfortunate state of the nation at the end of the Buchannan Administration (see: the election of 1860 and subsequent period of American history).
Joe Biden and George Dallas. Footnotes of History.