The United States, thanks to the vagaries of its Electoral College, has had two presidents elected without winning the popular vote. Both were sons of two-term vice presidents, later single-term presidents, of the same name.
Both rejected the appellation “Junior”, instead distinguishing themselves from their fathers by their middle name or initial – John Quincy Adams, and George W Bush.
The fathers were both vice president to popular two-termers, succeeded to the presidency, and lost after one term to slippery characters who also shared a name – John Adams was vice president to George Washington, and lost to Thomas Jefferson; George Bush served Ronald Reagan before losing to William Jefferson Clinton.
Both fathers were hampered in re-election by a decidedly odd third-party candidate. In the case of Bush, snr, it was eccentric millionaire Ross Perot. For John Adams, it was Aaron Burr of New York – who later not only killed a Founding Father in a duel, but also tried to make himself Emperor of Mexico.
There, the comparison ends. John Quincy Adams served just one term. Like his father, he suffered from an inability to play populist or party politics. His presidency, however, was only a comma in a long, distinguished career.
Entering the Diplomatic Service in his teens, he played important roles in the Netherlands, Prussia, Russia and Britain. At home he served in Congress and cabinet. It was Adams who largely conceived and negotiated the modern boundaries of the continental United States. Returning to Congress after the presidency he was an early, lonely voice in the fight against slavery. He finally died, at an advanced age, on his feet on the floor of the House.
George W Bush, of course, won re-election to a second term. It was hardly important, though. He did all the damage in his first.





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