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The Randy List / 24 Devilishly Difficult Questions About Presidential History


Dan Hubig © 2016  "Measuring I.Q."

Siri-lessly now, can you answer these without consulting your smartphone or a search engine?

1) Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump both live in New York. What were the five previous campaigns in which the Democratic and Republican candidates both hailed from the same state?

2) Donald Trump hasn't previously held a government position. Was this ever true of any other Republican or Democratic nominees for president?

3) Seven Republican or Democratic nominees had significant government careers but never held elected office prior to their nomination. How many can you name?

4) Who was the only president defeated for re-election by his own vice president?

5) Which four incumbent presidents lost their rematch against a previously defeated opponent?

6) Which former presidents ran for president in the general election? Did they win?

7) The Chicago Times wrote, "The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dish-watery utterances of the man who has been pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the president of the United States." Who was the president?

8) Two multi-term presidents served full first terms that were shorter than four years. Who, when, how and why?

9) Of the U.S. presidents who served a single full term, whose term was shortest?

10) Which president served the shortest amount of time?

11) Which president served the longest?

12) Under the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1951), what is the longest time that anyone can now serve as president?

13) Harry Truman served almost eight years - most of Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth term plus the full term to which he was elected in his own right in 1948. Could Truman have run for re-election in 1952 after the 22nd Amendment placed term limits on the presidency?

14) The U.S. has twice had years in which three presidents served. When? Who? Why?

15) President Barack Obama is slated to complete two full terms in office on Jan. 20, 2017. Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush before him completed two full terms each. Have three consecutive U.S. presidents each completed two full terms before this? Who? When?

16) O.K., three-in-a-row is a high bar to clear. When was the last time (before the current run) that even two consecutive U.S. presidents each completed two full terms?

17) Vice Presidents Al Gore and Dick Cheney each served two full terms, and Vice President Biden will have on Jan. 20. When was the last time three consecutive U.S. vice presidents each completed two full terms?

18) How about the last time (before Gore and Cheney) that two consecutive U.S. vice presidents each completed two full terms?

19) Before, during or after their terms, which four presidents won Nobel Prizes?

20) And which two vice presidents?

21) Which failed vice presidential candidate won a Nobel?

22) Before, during or after their terms, which presidents won Academy Awards?

23) Which vice presidents?

24) Besides Abraham Lincoln, who was the other president with a Gettysburg address?

(Answers below)








1) Both candidates from same state:

1860 Abraham Lincoln & Stephen A. Douglas, both of Illinois

1904 Theodore Roosevelt & Alton B. Parker, both of New York

1920 Warren Harding & James Cox, both of Ohio

1940 Franklin D. Roosevelt & Wendell Willkie, both of New York

1944 Franklin D. Roosevelt & Thomas E. Dewey, both of New York

2016 Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both of New York

The GOP leads, 4-2.

2) Besides Trump, Wendell Willkie, a lawyer and utility executive, is the only Dem or GOP presidential nominee without a prior career in government. Republican Willkie lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 by 449 to 82 electoral votes. Trump did better.

3) Before running for president, these Republican and Democratic nominees had many years of government service, but not in elected office:

1864 George McClellan (D), army general

1868 Ulysses S. Grant (R), army general

1880 Winfield Scott Hancock (D), army general

1904 Alton B. Parker (D), Chief Judge of New York

1908 William Howard Taft (R), Solicitor General, federal judge and Secretary of War

1928 Herbert Hoover (R), relief administrator and Secretary of Commerce

1952 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R), army general

4) President John Adams lost the 1800 presidential election to Vice President Thomas Jefferson.

5) John Adams defeated Thomas Jefferson in 1796, but lost to him in 1800.

John Quincy Adams defeated Andrew Jackson in 1824, but lost to him in 1828.

Martin Van Buren defeated William Henry Harrison in 1836, but lost to him in 1840.

Benjamin Harrison defeated Grover Cleveland in 1888, but lost to him in 1892.

6) Former presidents Martin Van Buren (1848), Millard Fillmore (1856), Grover Cleveland (1892) and Theodore Roosevelt (1912) ran for president in the general election. Only Cleveland was successful.

7) The Chicago Times used those words to diss Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address.

8) Because of startup delays after the Constitution was ratified in 1788, George Washington did not take the presidential oath until April 30, 1789, and the first of his two terms ended March 4, 1793, after 3 years, 308 days.

[More detail:

The Constitution was established when the ninth state (New Hampshire) ratified it June 21, 1788. But it was only when the two key states Virginia and New York ratified it June 25 and July 26 respectively, that the new system was going to have a chance.

The existing Congress of the Confederation directed on Sept. 13, 1788, that the states choose electors on Jan. 7, 1789, who would cast their ballots on Feb. 4. The First Congress counted the ballots as soon as both chambers had achieved their first quorums on April 6.

Every elector had voted for George Washington, and he was sworn in April 30, 1789, on the balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. (The oath was administered by Robert Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York, because there was yet not any Chief Justice to get the words wrong, as Justice John Roberts did at Obama's first inauguration in 2009.)

The Second Congress decided March 1, 1792, that presidential elections would take place in November 1792 and every fourth year thereafter, and that terms would begin and end on March 4 of the year following the election. So, the first of Washington's two terms ended March 4, 1793, after 3 years, 308 days.]

The 20th Amendment changed Inauguration Day from March 4 to Jan. 20, shortening Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1933-1937 first term to 3 years, 322 days.

[More detail:

Congress proposed the amendment to the states March 2, 1932, and it was ratified Jan. 23, 1933 -- after Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to his first term, but a few weeks before he was to take office. However, the amendment specified that the new dates for presidential (and congressional) terms would not take effect until the Oct. 15 following its ratification. Thus, Roosevelt's first term ran from March 4, 1933, to Jan. 20, 1937, for a total of 3 years, 322 days.

The 20th Amendment also added to the Constitution this provision, effective upon ratification: "If, at the time fixed for the beginning of the term of the President, the President elect shall have died, the Vice President elect shall become President." Three weeks after it was ratified, President elect Roosevelt narrowly escaped an assassination attempt on Feb. 15.]

9) President John Adams served only 1,460 days in office from 1797 to 1801, not 1,461 days, because 1800 was not a Leap Year. (1900 was not a Leap year, either, but William McKinley was re-elected and served six months of his second term. 2000 was a Leap Year, so Bill Clinton's second term was a full 1,461 days.)

10) W.H. Harrison caught pneumonia at his inauguration and died 31 days later. The pneumonia was a consequence of delivering the longest inaugural address (8,443 words, about an hour and 40 minutes) in the cold weather without a hat or coat.

11) Franklin D. Roosevelt served 12 years, 39 days.

12) Under the 22nd Amendment, a president can serve two full terms plus up to two years of a term to which someone else was elected, for a theoretical maximum of 10 years. That's why Lyndon Johnson - who had served 14 months of JFK's term - was able to run for the Democratic nomination in 1968, until he withdrew.

13) Yes, the 22nd Amendment specifically exempted the president in office at the time of its ratification. Truman was briefly in the running in 1952's early primaries. With his popularity falling, he bowed out.

14) Three presidents in a year: Van Buren completed his term in March 1841, W.H. Harrison served 31 days and died, and John Tyler became president in April.

Rutherford B. Hayes completed his term in March 1881, James Garfield died of an assassin's bullet in September, and Chester Alan Arthur completed his term.

15) The only previous time three consecutive U.S. presidents each completed two full terms was in 1801-1825 with the third, fourth and fifth presidents: Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe.

16) Outside the Jefferson-Madison-Monroe and Clinton-Bush-Obama (we hope) triple doubles, there's no other time that two consecutive U.S. presidents each completed two full terms. This despite the prevailing perception (or mythology) that two complete consecutive terms is the normal pattern for a president.

17) No three consecutive U.S. vice presidents have each completed two full terms, ever, but this is about to be accomplished by Al Gore, Dick Cheney and Joe Biden.

18) Before Gore and Cheney, not even two consecutive U.S. vice presidents completed two full terms each.

19) Theodore Roosevelt won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the end of the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.

Woodrow Wilson won the 1919 Peace Prize for founding the League of Nations, which the United States never joined.

Former President Jimmy Carter won the 2002 Peace Prize for "untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."

Barack Obama won the 2009 Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples"

20) Coolidge's vice president, Charles G. Dawes, shared the 1925 Peace Prize for his earlier work as chair of the Allied Reparation Commission and originator of the "Dawes Plan" for German payment of World War I debts.

Former Vice President Al Gore shared the 2007 Peace Prize with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."

21) Former vice presidential candidate Nicholas Murray Butler shared the 1931 Peace Prize for promoting the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Butler, the president of Columbia University, was the Republican stand-in candidate for U.S. vice president in 1912 after incumbent vice president James Sherman died six days before the election. Butler won only eight electoral votes for V.P.

22) Actor Ronald Reagan never won an Academy Award, and no other president has, either.

23) Nor has any vice president won an Academy Award. The two Oscars for the 2006 film An Inconvenient Truth went to director Davis Guggenheim and singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge. Al Gore appears in the film, but did not win an Oscar. He won an Emmy and a Nobel, thank you.

24) Dwight D. Eisenhower owned a farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

For Oliver Jensen's hilarious send-up of how Ike might have delivered Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, see HERE .


Give yourself partial credit for any partial or partly correct answers. Honestly.

0 correct: Sorry, you missed the filing deadline.

1- 4 correct: You sputtered in the primaries.

5- 8 correct: You won your party's nomination.

9-12 correct: You've been elected president.

13-16 correct: You've won a second term.

17-20 correct: You're ready to burnish your legacy.

21-24 correct: George Washington, you've come back!

Randy Alfred is a retired copy editor (Wired, and news writer (TechTV, KRON-TV) as well as editor of MAD SCIENCE: Einstein's Fridge, Dewar's Flask, Mach's Speed, and 362 Other Inventions and Discoveries That Made Our World. His work has also appeared in Sports Illustrated, Might, Washingtonian, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere. He's also a member of the Lunch Guys

Copyright © 2016 Randy Alfred

Art: Dan Hubig © 2016


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