Has a President ever returned to office after losing re-election?

Q. Has a President ever returned to office after losing re-election?

A Yes, but only once.

President Grover Cleveland lost re-election in 1888 to Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland beat Harrison four years later, making Cleveland both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. To date, Cleveland is the only President to serve non-consecutive terms. Cleveland actually won the popular vote both times but lost the Electoral College vote in 1888.

In an interesting parallel to our recent election, there were loud complaints about voter fraud in Cleveland’s loss to Harrison in 1888. There were accusations that some voters in Indiana were paid to vote for Harrison. However, from there the narratives diverged. Despite the allegations of fraud, President Cleveland and the Democratic Party conceded the results. In a letter to Harrison, Cleveland stated that he would do everything in his power to ease the way for the new president.

Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th President of the United States.

Indeed, not only did Cleveland attend the inauguration for President Harrison, but he also held an umbrella over the new president during the inaugural speech. While gracious in loss, Grover Cleveland was a President with some controversy. He had been criticized for fathering a child out of wedlock before running for President. He also freely used his veto pen, much to the distress of members of Congress and many business leaders. Nonetheless, Cleveland was popular enough that he may have served a third term but he declined to run for re-election a second time.

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