Five Human Beings You’ve Never Heard of Who Ran For President This Century

A cautionary tale for those who may run.

Will Leitch
4 min readFeb 2


Word leaked today that Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina and Donald Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, will announce her candidacy for President next week. This makes Haley the second person to officially announce their candidacy for President, after the guy who was previously President and, theoretically anyway, would like to be again.

There are many other potential candidates who might announce their own campaign in the coming months, from Mike Pompeo to Tim Scott to Larry Hogan to, of course, ostensible Republican favorite Ron DeSantis to current President Joe Biden. Each of these eventual candidates, other than the top-tier candidates, is running less to become the actual next President of the United States and more to raise their personal and political profile — to become a larger part of the conversation that they currently are. This can work: Pete Buttigieg was a simple small-town mayor before the 2020 primary but is now the Secretary of Transportation and one of the rising stars in the Democratic Party. It worked even better for a real estate magnate from New York four years earlier.

But sometimes, sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes the campaign falls flat, and no one remembers you ever ran for President in the first place. Which is probably a good thing: Their campaigns are likely something they’d like to forget.

Here are five people who ran for President and got absolutely nothing out of it but debt.

Gary Bauer.
Party: Republican.
Year: 2000.
Previous Job: President of the Family Research Council
Campaign High Watermark: Fourth Place, 8.53 percent, Iowa caucuses.
Memorable Campaign Moment: The time he tried to flip pancakes in New Hampshire and fell off the stage.



Will Leitch

I write about these tumultuous times 2x a week. Author of five books, including “How Lucky.” NYMag/MLB.. Founder, Deadspin.