A Warm Bucket of Spit
Given that George H.W. Bush was the last sitting vice president to be elected president, Megan McArdle muses that the “VP slot seems to be a lot less important than it used to be.” Steven Taylor isn’t so sure that it even used to be all that important.
Indeed, only four sitting vice presidents (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, and Bush) have been elected directly to the presidency, period. Then again, only 42 men have served as President of the United States since the Constitution was ratified in 1789 and fourteen of them — fully a third — were previously vice presidents. In addition to the four who were “promoted” via the Electoral College, another nine succeeded upon the death (Chester Arthur, Calvin Coolidge, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, John Tyler, Lyndon Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman) or resignation (Gerald Ford) of a president, and Richard Nixon was ultimately elected in 1968 after having failed narrowly in 1960.
A fifteenth, Al Gore, won the popular vote in 2000 but lost narrowly in the Electoral College. A handful of other vice presidents (Walter Mondale and Hubert Humphrey come to mind; I don’t have time to research the others) have also at least gotten major party nominations and had a shot at the job.
So, all in all, the vice presidency is a fine perch from which to launch a presidential bid. No other office, certainly, has a better track record.