This is a page to list famous politicians or people who ran for office but didn't win, and notable political commentators. In short: those politicians who never became Prime Minister or President.
For list of those who did become head of state, see Heads of State
Officeholders (all politicians who are not or have never been the head of state)
- Joe Biden (D-DE): Fondly called "Uncle Joe". 47th Vice President of the United States of America under Barack Obama; former US Senator (D-DE) from 1973-2009. Has run several unsuccessful presidential campaigns, declined to run in 2016 due to grieving the death of his son Beau, now strongly considering a 2020 run.
- Jerry Brown (D-CA): Governor of California (34th then 39th) again after 36 years when he originally took office, spent some time in between running for different offices and re-inventing himself.
- William Jennings Bryan (D-NE): Populist Democratic congressman from Nebraska and multiple-time presidential candidate known for his advocacy of bimetallism and later for defending creationism in the Scopes trial.
- Chris Christie (R-NJ): Governor of New Jersey from 2010-2018. Burst onto the national spotlight in 2012 after gaining praise for his response to Hurricane Sandy. Unfortunately, that goodwill evaporated a year later after revelations of his involvement in a series of lane closures on the George Washington Bridge. Plagued by several more scandals during his tenure, and received widespread mockery and criticism (including a failed bid to become Donald Trumps running mate) until he left office in 2018 with historically low approval ratings.
- Henry Clay (W-KY): Kentucky Congressman, Senator, and federal Secretary of State who made many important contributions to the nation during the 19th century.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY): Former First Lady (to Bill Clinton), former U.S. Senator (D-NY) from 2001-2009, Presidential candidate in 2008 and 68th Secretary of State (2009-2013). Democratic nominee for President for 2016, the first woman to be nominated for that office by a major party in the country's history (the latest in a long, long line of 'firsts'note ). She and her husband are something of a political institution; when she left the State Department in 2013, it was the first time in 30 years that neither one of them was serving in the federal or state government.
- Ted Cruz (R-TX): Tea Party Senator (R-TX) and 2016 presidential candidate who first became known for his role in the 2013 governmental shutdown. Known for being very religious and the fact that he was born in Calgary, Canada.
- Jefferson Davis (D-MS): President of the Confederate States of America during The American Civil War.
- Eugene Debs (S-IN): A five-time Socialist presidential candidate from Indiana in the early 20th century, better known as a labor leader.
- Al Franken (D-MN): Saturday Night Live writer turned liberal pundit turned U.S. Senator starting in 2009. Resigned in 2017 following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.
- Benjamin Franklin: One of America's Founding Fathers, and perhaps the most famous one who was never President. Famously appears on the $100 bill.
- Newt Gingrich (R-GA): Speaker of the House 1995-1999, Minority Whip 1989-1995, Rep 1979-1999. Also taught history at West Georgia College, wrote Alternate History and Historical Fiction, and ran for President in 2012 (eventually losing the Republican nomination to Mitt Romney).
- Barry Goldwater (R-AZ): Highly controversial Republican presidential candidate from 1964 and Senator from Arizona, and the target of the famous "Daisy" ad.
- Al Gore, Jr. (D-TN): Representative from Tennessee from 1977-1985 (6th District from 1977-1983, 4th District from 1983-1985), US Senator (D-TN) from 1985-1993, Presidential candidate in 1988, Vice President of the United States under Bill Clinton, Democratic nominee for President in 2000, environmentalist, filmmaker, and founder of cable TV network Current.
- Alexander Hamilton (F-NY): American Founding Father and First Secretary of the Treasury. He's also on the $10. He used to be a somewhat obscure figure until the advent of a certain musical.
- Hubert Humphrey (D-MN): Minneapolis, Minnesota Mayor: (July 2, 1945 November 30, 1948). Minnesota Senator from (January 3, 1949 December 30, 1964), he was chosen to be the 38th Vice President to Lyndon Johnson for his heavy endorsement of civil rights. In office (January 20, 1965 January 20, 1969). Ran against Richard Nixon in the 1968 presidential election, but lost. He went back to the Senate and served (January 3, 1971 January 13, 1978). The Metrodome, former home of the Twins and Vikings, was named for him.
- Daniel Inouye (D-HI): Former Hawaii Representative-At-Large (1959-1963) Senator (1963-2012) and President Pro Tempore of the Senate (2010-2012). Tragically passed away December 17, 2012.
- Tim Kaine (D-VA): Former Mayor of Richmond and Governor of Virginia, currently a sitting Senator who became very famous very quickly when Hillary Clinton picked him as her running mate for the 2016 election. The first VP candidate to speak fluent Spanish, thanks to a year-long stint as a Jesuit volunteer in Honduras during law school. Nicknamed "America's Dad" or "America's Stepdad" for his fatherly demeanor.
- Robert F. Kennedy (D-MA): Younger brother of John F. Kennedy, Attorney General from 1961-1964, Senator from New York from 1965-1968, and a possible Democratic presidential nominee in 1968. He was assassinated before the primaries ended.
- John Kerry (D-MA): Lieutenant Governor (1983-1985) and Senator from Massachusetts (1985-2013), Democratic Presidential nominee in 2004, 69th Secretary of State (February 1, 2013-January 20, 2017)
- Huey Long (D-LA): Infamous Louisiana politician of notable interest: Governor from (May 27, 1928 to January 25, 1932) and Senator from (January 25, 1932 September 10, 1935), his Senate career was cut short by an assassination.
- John McCain (R-AZ): Long-time Arizona senator who was the Republican Presidential candidate in 2008, widely considered an American hero for his actions as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. His campaign was unusually overshadowed by his vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin.
- Joseph McCarthy (R-WI): Anti-communist Republican senator during the 1950s. The term "McCarthyism" is named for him.
- Sarah Palin (R-AK): Governor of Alaska from 2006-2009, 2008 Republican candidate for US Vice President.
- Rand Paul (R-KY): Senator from Kentucky (2010-Present), Ophthalmologist, and son of notable former Congressman Ron Paul. Was a candidate for the Republican nomination in 2016.
- Ron Paul (R-TX): Representative from Texas (22nd District from 1976-1977 and 1979-1985, 14th District from 1997-2013), perennial Presidential candidate (he was a GOP candidate in 2008 and 2012 and the Libertarian Party nominee in 1988).
- Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): The current House Minority Speaker, a San Francisco-based congresswoman who has led the Democratic house caucus for more than a decade. She became the first female Speaker of the House in 2007.
- Mike Pence (R-IN): Current VP under Donald Trump. Before being picked by Trump, Pence was an unknown to most Americans, and kinda still is. He was formerly the governor of Indiana from 2013 to 2017 and a Congressman from 2001 to 2013. Known for being very religious.
- Dan Quayle (R-IN): Representative from Indiana's 4th District from 1977-1981, US Senator (R-IN) from 1981-1989, Vice President under George H.W. Bush.
- Mitt Romney (R-MA): Governor of Massachusetts (January 2, 2003 - January 4, 2007) financier, and son of auto executive and Michigan governor George Romney (January 1, 1963 January 22, 1969). Republican presidential candidate in 2008 and nominee in 2012. Running for a Senate seat in Utah for the 2018 midterms.
- Eleanor Roosevelt (D-NY): Wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the longest-serving First Lady. She broke new ground when it came to the role a woman could play in politics.
- Paul Ryan (R-WI): Current Speaker of the House. Having been in congress for nearly two decades, he first gained nationwide prominence after being selected as Mitt Romney's running mate in 2012.
- Bernie Sanders (I-VT): Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981-1989), Rep (1991-2007), Senator (2007-present). An independent Senator who caucuses with Democrats in Congress. Widely considered to be the most politically progressive member of Senate, if not the entirety of Congress. Ran for President in 2016, lost the primary to Hillary Clinton. Said to be considering a 2020 presidential run, and is running for re-election as a Senator in Vermont in 2018.
- Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA): Movie Action Hero turned Republican Governator of California (2003-2011)
- Jesse Ventura (I-MN): Former professional wrestler turned Reform (later Independence) Party Governor of Minnesota from 1999-2003.
- Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Lawyer, former professor of contract law at Harvard University, architect of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and current Senator from Massachusetts, elected in one of the biggest backfire stories in American politics.note Outspoken left wing firebrand (and is in fact generally considered to be the most politically progressive Senator behind Bernie Sanders) noted for taking on Wall Street at every turn in defense of the middle and working classes and winning far more than anyone expected her to. Shortlisted for VP in the 2016 Clinton campaign to much media hullabaloo, but the much more politically experienced Tim Kaine got the nod instead.