Richard Nixon goes down in history as the only President to resign from office under the threat of removal, however his resilience in getting to that office cannot be overlooked. As the surprise choice as Eisenhower’s Vice President, he survived corruption allegations during the 1952 campaign and attempts to remove him from the ticket, thwarting them by turning things around in his famous televised Checkers Speech. Eisenhower tried to persuade him to take a Cabinet role in 1956 and come off the ticket and again he resisted, knowing that the Vice President’s heartbeat away from the presidency was reliant on Eisenhower’s heart, which had already suffered a major attack the year before. He ran for President in 1960, being beaten by John Kennedy by a very small margin.
He was back in 1962 with a half-hearted attempt to become Governor of California. His dramatic loss led to a petulant election night press conference outburst saying, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.” His apparent exit from politics didn’t last long and he was a campaigning for Republican candidates across the country in the 1966 mid-terms in anticipation of running for President again in 1968. He overcame a strong field including Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination and went on to narrowly beat Hubert Humphrey, finally achieving his goal of becoming President. His re-election in 1972 was a triumph, winning 49 out of 50 states. Then it all unravelled, and within months Watergate and its cover up destroyed his presidency.
Theodore Roosevelt was yet another Governor of New York to achieve the presidency. Incredibly dynamic, as Governor, he made powerful enemies in his own party rooting out patronage and corruption. The novel solution they came up with was to ensure he became William McKinley’s Vice President for his second term, therefore removing him to a non-job. This backfired spectacularly, when soon after their election, McKinley was assassinated and Roosevelt became the youngest President in history. In a hyperactive presidency, Roosevelt redefined the role in an activist way that has never seen before, winning the election in his own right by a landslide in 1904. Despite the fact he could have easily won re-election, he stood down in 1909, having anointed as his successor his great friend William Taft and promptly left for a safari in Africa. He returned to find his successor had taken his own path, much to Roosevelt’s annoyance. It wasn’t long before he challenged Taft for the Republican nomination, eventually losing at the party convention in Chicago. Not willing to give up, he founded the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party and ran one of the most successful third-party interventions in US history, including being shot in the chest at a rally in Milwaukee but insisting on finishing his speech before going to hospital. Despite that, he only managed to split the Republican vote and allow Woodrow Wilson to win an Electoral College landslide. He was offered the Progressive nomination again in 1916 but refused it and eventually died in early 1919, with some people still wondering whether he would run in 1920.