TIME Midterms

A Virtual Cycle

Joe Klein Road Trip Thom Tillis and Mark Walker
US Senate candidate Thom Tillis, right in blue shirt, greets and speaks to rally attendees at the Guildford County Republican Party headquarters in Greensboro, N.C. on Sept. 20, 2014. Jeremy M. Lange for TIME

Nobody wins when voters only experience politics second hand

Peter Tennis is an endangered species. He’s 72, lives in Marietta, Ga., and still works in commercial real estate. He’s a devout Episcopalian who insists we begin our breakfast at the OK Cafe with a prayer. He reads the newspaper every day and clips out the stories he finds interesting. A few years ago, he saw an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a 15-year-old black kid who had been sent to adult prison for participating in an armed robbery. He started corresponding with the young man, then visited him in prison and led a group to pray for him at St. David’s Episcopal Church. He found this work so rewarding that he began contacting other prisoners he read about, visiting them in prison, helping them where he could; he corresponds regularly with “three prisoners at a time” in Georgia. There isn’t a dramatic climax to Pete’s prison work. He just does it. His wife Margot is similarly involved, teaching English to Latino adults. “I once knew a guy named Railroad Bob, pretty down and out,” Pete says. “But he said something I’ll never forget: ‘We teach best what we desperately need to learn.'”

I mention Peter and Margot Tennis because they reached out to me when they heard I was going on another of my annual road trips–this time through the South. Pete offered to organize a meeting of his friends and co-workers to talk politics with me in Marietta. That’s how these road trips work; TIME readers provide the itinerary. But a certain sort of TIME reader: Dr. Richard Merwarth, 76, in Pittsboro, N.C.–who organized a meeting for me with 200 or so senior citizens at the Galloway Ridge retirement community–is another. What Pete and Dick have in common is that they are active citizens–not activists, just people who think part of their job as Americans is to be involved in stuff. It’s probably not an accident that they’re both in their 70s: they are among a dwindling but vital minority in the country. They grew up believing that public life, including politics, was a group activity, something you share with your neighbors. That isn’t true anymore. Politics is now a virtual activity. It happens, mostly via ads, on television and the radio. That makes it a lot easier for most people: nothing is expected of them but a vote. “We just don’t do many events anymore,” a campaign manager in Georgia told me. The candidates’ time is better spent dialing for dollars. That’s nothing new, but gradually politics–and political reporting–has become an arid exercise, the tabulation of money raised and ads promulgated (and invisible phone banks microtargeting voters, which is something journalists can’t quantify). It’s hard to imagine that the Founding Fathers–who staged raucous rallies complete with beer, barbecue and juicy speeches–would recognize the process.

A politically eclectic group gathered in a bland room at the East Cobb, Ga., county offices, 25 people, mostly friends and real estate colleagues of Peter Tennis. They were mostly conservative, though not angry Tea Party sorts. There were a handful of moderate liberals, too, who weren’t as forceful as the conservatives. “Politicians just want to throw money at things,” said Jeff Marshall, 54, a recent Connecticut transplant. “I’m just not convinced that government can do all that very effectively.”

This is not an uncommon sentiment, of course. But a small-business owner named Charles Bonds, 41, put some flesh on it, regaling the group with the troubles his company, with 51 employees, was having with the Affordable Care Act. He wanted to provide health coverage and was required to under the law. But his private insurer had raised premiums 57.8%, and while the rates in the local Obamacare exchange were better for his employees individually, the law said that companies with more than 50 employees had to provide the insurance. The obvious answer was to fire two people, hire some temps and subsidize his employees to get their insurance through Obamacare. “And even if we did that, the feds require us to report which of our employees haven’t gotten health coverage–which is sort of like snitching on them.”

Eric Flamm, 58, a computer consultant, said he thought the whole idea of mandated health care was “flagrantly unconstitutional,” and he was “pessimistic about ever getting the federal government to shrink.”

The other big issue was a surprising amalgam of immigration and terrorism. Bob Wood, 72, said he was worried that the southern border was porous, that ISIS terrorists were crossing over, that the country was riddled with sleeper cells. “They’re all over the place,” he said. Several others said they were fearful of ISIS and immigrants–no accident, it turned out, since the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, a businessman named David Perdue, had just launched an ad accusing his opponent, Michelle Nunn, of supporting “amnesty” and an immigration bill that wouldn’t seal the southern border and might allow ISIS terrorists in. (The bill, which was passed with the support of 14 Republican Senators, provides “legal status” but not citizenship for undocumented workers and also would spend an additional $38 billion on increased border security.)

The Perdue ad is almost hilariously despicable. It also accuses Nunn–the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn–of “funding organizations linked to terrorists.” This allegedly occurred while she was the president of George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation. The real story is TCFP: too complicated for politics. Users of eBay were offered a list of charities to support via Points of Light. In the end, they chose to give $13,500 to a federally approved organization called Islamic Relief USA, which has “ties” to an international organization of the same name, which allegedly has “ties” to Hamas. Said Neil Bush, the chairman of Points of Light: “To attack an organization founded by my father … to smear our organization for political gains, is in my opinion shameful.” (Bush the Elder has endorsed Perdue.)

In North Carolina, a few days earlier, I attended an actual political rally. It was staged by Republicans in Greensboro and featured their U.S. Senate candidate, Thom Tillis, who wasn’t carrying a pitchfork; and neither did Mark Walker, a local minister running for Congress. “It’s sad,” Tillis said, “that we have to be this disappointed in this President.” He criticized his Democratic opponent Kay Hagan–for supporting the Affordable Care Act, diplomacy with Iran, the Senate immigration bill–with a call-and-respond line: “Is that a Senator from North Carolina?” He told his own up-by-his-bootstraps story. (Tillis started on a loading dock and didn’t get his college degree until he turned 36, but he’s been successful in business and is now the speaker of the state legislature.) “I’m optimistic about our country,” he said, running against the right-wing radio trope that the country is in the midst of an Old Testament slide toward damnation.

It sounded to me, at first, like the Republicans had wised up in 2014. They were serving up smoked brisket, not red meat. There was a rationale for this: white women are likely to be the swing group in the North Carolina and Georgia elections. Women tend not to respond to rhetorical violence. Walker, the minister running for Congress, mentioned neither gay rights nor abortion. It was, I thought, grounds for optimism about the growing climate threat of political overheating. But after I saw the Perdue ad in Georgia, I realized that I–like the lovely folks who set up my road-trip meetings–was living in a community-oriented past, where speeches and rallies meant something. Nowadays, a candidate can be all smiles and more-in-sadness-than-in-anger on the stump, and run ads that are sicker than swamp gas on television, where it really counts.

TO READ JOE’S BLOG POSTS, GO TO time.com/swampland

TIME 2014 Election

Senate Democrats Leading TV Ad Blitz As Election Approaches

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee aired more TV ads in key Senate races last week than any other group

This story was published by The Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ruled the TV airwaves last week, even trumping the conservative super PACs and Koch brothers-backed nonprofits they’ve accused of trying to buy elections.

The DSCC—an official arm of the Democratic Party—aired about 3,800 ads in U.S. Senate races across eight states, according to a new Center for Public Integrity analysis of preliminary estimates provided by Kantar Media/CMAG, an advertising tracking service.

That was more than double the number of ads run by its GOP counterpart, the National Republican Senatorial Committee, from Tuesday, Sept. 16, through Monday, Sept. 22.

Such dominance isn’t shocking against the backdrop of Senate Republicans’ fundraising hiccups: the NRSC ended August with about $5 million less in the bank than the DSCC, according to the groups’ most recent campaign finance filings

“It’s critical that the DSCC use our sizable fundraising advantage over the NRSC to help bridge the gap and stop the Kochs from buying the U.S. Senate,” said DSCC spokesman Justin Barasky, referring to the conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch whose political network has also been a major player in competitive Senate races.

NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but numerous recent fundraising pleas from the group have bemoaned the Democrats’ financial advantage.

“The midterm environment is toxic for Democrats, yet there’s a chance Republicans may not take the Senate,” wrote GOP strategist Karl Rove in a fundraising message for the NRSC on Wednesday. “Why? The Democrats have a huge money advantage.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., struck a similar tone in a separate recent email: “If we are unable to close the fundraising gap, Republicans risk being outspent 3-to-1, 5-to-1, even 6-to-1 in several key battleground races.”

Despite the sheer volume of ads the DSCC produced last week, the party committee only once — in Iowa — ranked as the top spender in a Senate race.

There, it essentially tied with GOP super PAC American Crossroads, a group co-founded by Rove after the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision in 2010.

Both American Crossroads and the DSCC aired about 1,000 TV ads each in Iowa, according to estimates from Kantar Media/CMAG — or about one ad every 10 minutes. Republican Joni Ernst and Democrat Bruce Braley are locked in a bitter battle to replace long-serving Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who’s retiring.

Overall, more than 33,000 TV ads aired in the nine most competitive U.S. Senate races from Sept. 16 through Sept. 22, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of preliminary estimates from Kantar Media/CMAG. Democratic candidates and their allies were responsible for 52 percent of them.

Democratic candidates themselves aired more TV ads than any other spender last week in the Senate races underway in Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana and North Carolina, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.

The campaigns of Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C., and Alison Lundergan Grimes — the Democrat challenging McConnell in Kentucky — each aired about 1,200 TV ads last week. That’s one ad about one ad every nine minutes.

In Louisiana, Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu’s campaign sponsored about 1,300 TV ads last week — or about one ad every eight minutes.

And in Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor’s campaign aired about 600 TV ads — or about one ad every 17 minutes.

In both Alaska and Georgia, meanwhile, the top Democratic ad producers were neck-and-neck with Republican spenders. For the battleground states of Colorado and Michigan, the top sponsors of ads last week were independent groups — not a candidate or an official party committee.

In Colorado, Crossroads GPS, the nonprofit sibling of super PAC American Crossroads, ranked as the No. 1 spender, airing about 1,000 ads last week.

And in Michigan, that distinction belonged to NextGen Climate Action, the super PAC supported by billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer. It aired more than 1,400 ads last week supporting Democrat Gary Peters over Republican Terri Lynn Land in an open race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Carl Levin.

With less than six weeks until Election Day — and early voting already underway in a handful of states — both Democrats and Republicans are working full bore to rally supporters and win over undecided voters.

“Both sides really are doing whatever it takes,” said Johanna Dunaway, a professor of political science at Louisiana State University. “We are seeing tons and tons of ads.”

Republicans need to pick up six seats in November to win a Senate majority.

Since January 2013, more than 400,000 ads have aired in the nine most competitive Senate races across the country, according to Kantar Media/CMAG.

Conservatives and liberals have each accounted for roughly half.

Politics investigations in your inbox: Sign up for the Center for Public Integrity’s Watchdog email.

Related: Who’s buying the Senate?

More stories in the Buying the Senate 2014 investigation from the Center for Public Integrity

 

TIME 2014 Election

GOP Dubs Democrats the Party of the Rich in 2012 Turnabout

Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on Sept. 14, 2014. ; Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at an election-night rally on April 3, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Hillary Clinton gives a speech at the 37th Harkin Steak Fry in Indianola, Iowa on Sept. 14, 2014. ; Mitt Romney speaks to supporters at an election-night rally on April 3, 2012 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jim Young—Reuters/Corbis; Scott Olson—Getty Images

What worked against Mitt Romney is now being wielded against Democrats

Republicans are turning the Democrats’ own playbook against them.

Two years after Democrats held the White House by painting Mitt Romney as a callous plutocrat, the GOP is borrowing a page from the same populist playbook. In close contests around the country, Republicans are hoping to gain an edge in the battle for control of the Senate by hammering Democrats as the party of the rich.

In Iowa, the Republican Super PAC American Crossroads has run three TV ads this month highlighting Democratic Senate candidate Bruce Braley’s fundraising links to liberal billionaire Tom Steyer. In Colorado, another outside GOP group, American Commitment, slammed Democratic Sen. Mark Udall for the same ties. In Kansas, advisers to Republican Sen. Pat Roberts are attacking a wealthy independent challenger (who Democrats tacitly support) for insufficient financial disclosures, and are raising questions about his “business dealings in the Middle East and the Cayman Islands.”

Sound familiar? In 2012, Democrats cast Romney as a rapacious “vulture” capitalist who was cocooned in the C-suite and blind to the challenges buffeting the middle class. Perhaps the most memorable ad of the election cycle was a brutal takedown of Romney’s Swiss bank account and tax havens in Bermuda and the Caymans, all set to the former private equity executive’s off-key crooning of “America the Beautiful.” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pummeled Romney with unsubstantiated charges that he had used accounting gimmicks to skirt 10 years of tax payments.

The attacks succeeded. As political scientists John Sides and Lynn Vavreck wrote in their book The Gamble, in surveys conducted throughout the race voters described themselves as ideologically closer to Romney than to President Barack Obama. But some of them voted for Obama anyway. The caricature that Democrats created—reinforced by Romney’s own tone-deaf remarks—was part of the reason. Obama regularly trounced Romney on “empathy” polling questions, such as which candidate cares more about “people like me.” Among voters who cited this as the trait that mattered most in a President, Obama won in exit polling by a margin of 81-18.

The strategy worked well enough that Republicans have dusted it off and put it use themselves. The campaign team dispatched to rescue Roberts in Kansas has seized on the vast wealth of independent challenger Greg Orman as a potential liability. They have attacked Orman, a businessman whose campaign filings indicate he is worth up to $86 million, as “another millionaire politician” with ties to a tainted Goldman Sachs exec and a private-equity partnership in the Caymans. In normal times, a seven-figure income and affiliation with high-flying financiers are badges of honor in the party. In campaign season, they are cudgels.

The GOP is hardly the only team trotting out this attack. Democrats have made the lavish political spending of the billionaire Koch brothers a centerpiece of their national strategy. In races around the country, they are painting conservative candidates as pawns of the Kochs’ political empire. It’s not clear whether the tactic will work when half the country has never heard of them. But this year, Republicans have found a foil of their own. They’re elevating Steyer, a liberal billionaire who has pledged to fork over $50 million to candidates this year, as the Democrats’ own billionaire bogeyman. That’s why he’s showing up in ads in multiple states, and why the Republican Governors Association has created a website introducing voters to a man they dubbed “Steyer the Liar.”

The truth beneath all the rhetoric is that both parties are desperate to recruit wealthy donors and candidates alike. But in a nation with rising inequality and millions of anxious voters, pitchfork populism will remain a staple of both parties’ campaign playbook before and after the midterm elections. The early rumblings of the 2016 race have focused on Hillary Clinton’s wealth: her massive book advance, her family’s speaking fees, her spacious homes. The media spent a month this summer chewing over how a multimillionaire could consider herself “dead broke.” In national politics these days, everybody seems to be cashing in at the polls on someone else’s money.

TIME

Michelle Nunn’s Public-Service Message

Correction appended: Sept. 25.

Atlanta, Ga.

We like to be a full-service road trip, sometimes even involving social mediacracy, And so…

Here’s a shout-out to TIME’s terrific economic columnist Rana Faroohar from her old Indiana high school friend Patrick Duncan!

Patrick does what sounds like complicated statistical analysis for the Coca-Cola company, except for today, He spent today putting together meals for the elderly at a very impressive not-for-profit charity called Project Open Hand, alongside several dozen other volunteers from Coke and other Atlanta companies, plus church folks and retirees. His job was to stand over a vat of pale yellow cheese and, using an ice cream scoop, deposit a glop of it on some cut up cauliflower, which was accompanied by something that looked like chili in a plastic, heatable tray that was sealed with clear-wrap down the line.

Along about 11:30 this morning, Patrick looked across the vat of cheese and found himself staring at a wraithlike, academic-looking woman, who also was depositing glops of cheese on cauliflower coming her way down a makeshift assembly line. It was Michelle Nunn, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate from Georgia. Now you know how this normally works: a politician deposits a glop in a photo-op and, once the picture is taken, moves on to her next event. But that’s not what happened today. Nunn stayed on the line until lunch break, chatting with Patrick Duncan about everything from life at Coke to the situation in Iraq. After it was over, Patrick said he was still undecided about who to vote for, “but the fact that she’s out here, doing this, means something.”

Most Memorable Previous Photo-Op Interlude: Michael Dukakis showed up at a candle-pin bowling alley in New Hampshire in 1988, rolled an elegant ball down the alley as photographers snapped from adjacent alleys, turned around and left, shaking some hands on the way. Four years later, Bill Clinton went to the same bowling alley, went to the locker room and came out wearing a bowling shirt. He bowled a full game, gabbing away with some of the locals. He was awful…but he was getting better as the game went on. “Let’s bowl another!” He said, gathering some more locals to join him. His staff had to drag him out of the place, but he haunted the alleys for the rest of the campaign. So, notice to wannabe politicians: actual enthusiasm counts for a lot, synthetic enthusiasm is easily detected.

Michelle Nunn has actual enthusiasm for public service projects. She’s been running them for 28 years, most recently as the director of George H.W. Bush’s Points of Light Foundation. She has done an interesting thing in her Senate campaign, staging regular service projects around the state–cleaning up playgrounds, restoring basketball courts, delivering meals. This may be something new under the sun: Seth Moulton, the Marine Captain who defeated the Democratic incumbent John Tierney in the Boston suburbs this month, organized volunteers to do service projects, too. There are those who may argue that the whole idea is hokey and just a more elaborate photo op–but public places are actually cleaned up, progress is made and the politician involved has a ready-made answer for the eternal question: What have you done for me lately?

And Also…

The drive from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa this afternoon enabled me to listen to some music and renew the road trip playlist tradition. Here are five songs my thoroughly shuffled iPod played along the way that made an impression:

1. Eva Cassidy–Oh, Had I A Golden Thread: Cassidy had one of the great voices ever, sadly gone now. This puts the instrument on spectacular display, almost knocked me off the road.

2. Lucinda Williams–Big Red Sun: Lucinda’s from Arkansas; I’ll be there next week. This is her country.

3.Bob Dylan–The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll: Bob Dylan’s withering civil rights ballad about a black hotel maid beaten to death by a wealthy customer. This was Hamilton Jordan’s favorite song. He was Jimmy Carter’s chief of staff and a stone outlaw. The fact that he loved this meant I couldn’t help but give him the benefit of the doubt and he almost always earned it. Had lunch with his son, Alex, in Atlanta the other day. Great scion.

4. Del McCoury Band–It’s Just the Night: Appalachia’s best.

5. Blind Faith–Can’t Find My Way Home: Got two weeks to go. We’ll see.

 

Correction: The original version of this story incorrectly referred to the non-profit as Open Hands. It is called Project Open Hand.

TIME 2014 Election

A Republican Wants You to Know That Republicans Are People, Too

Amusing new online ad campaign

A former member of Mitt Romney’s ad team wants you to know something: Republicans are people, too.

An amusing new online ad campaign created by political strategist Vinny Minchillo fights back against GOP critics by showing Republicans doing what some Democrats might pride themselves on: driving Priuses, recycling, using Macs, putting together Ikea furniture and reading the New York Times in public. It also states the obvious: Yes, there are black, Hispanic and Asian people who are Republicans.

“Republicans have feelings,” says the ad’s narrator.

“The goal of the campaign is to let people know that the common misperceptions and stereotypes of Republicans are inaccurate and there is a vast range of everyday Republicans among us,” Minchillo said in a statement.

TIME Military

Military Pilots Enjoy National Parks, Too

They've got the right stuff when it comes to making a quick visit

If you’ve ever attended an air show, you know to expect the Navy’s Blue Angels or the Air Force’s Thunderbirds to suddenly roar overhead, hugging the Earth and delightedly scaring young and old alike.

It’s quite a different matter when you’re quietly communing with nature on the ridge of a canyon deep in Death Valley, and a pair of F-18s screams by—flying lower than you, down in the rocky gash.

That’s just what happens in this recently-posted YouTube video. It’s no surprise that the gobsmacked reaction of those on the ground (foul-language alert!) is just as much fun to witness as the F-18 Hornets themselves, which likely came from the nearby Navy’s China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station.

“If there is one thing in this world that can turn a fully grown man into an excited teenage girl,” one viewer enthused, “it’s the sound of two GE F404 engines tearing overhead.”

Such flights, by military and other aircraft, have long been a concern, both for environmental and safety reasons. While it may be exciting, is this the proper use for such a national treasure (in this case the park, not the jets)? You bet, according to the National Park Service, which oversees the 5,200 square-mile California park.

While the FAA urges civilian aircraft to fly no lower than 2,000 feet—and orders them to stay above 500 feet—such altitude restrictions don’t apply to military planes. That’s because much of Death Valley is part of the R-2508 military training complex. “Congress and the FAA have given the military authority to deviate from standard flight regulations in the training complex,” the park service says. Outside of Death Valley itself—which includes many valleys—“the military can fly to within 200 feet of the ground.”

The military services regulate flights over national parks (Air Force, Army), but those rules don’t always apply when the park is part of a military training range.

Military pilots will tell you that flying low amid terrain—to practice hiding from enemy radar—can be good training for possible real-world missions. But such flights—especially outside military ranges—carry risks. In 1998, a Marine EA-6B jet crew was schussing, too fast and too low, through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains. It clipped a ski gondola cable and sent it plummeting more than 300 feet to the ground, killing all 20 aboard. “The aircraft,” the official investigation concluded, “flew lower and faster than authorized wherever the terrain permitted.”

The pilot and navigator were cleared of charges of involuntary manslaughter and negligent homicide. They were later convicted of obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming an officer for destroying a videotape, perhaps resembling the one from Death Valley, made from the cockpit during the fatal flight through Alpine Valley.

TIME White House

The 10 Shortest Stints in the Oval Office

William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia during his first term, is the shortest serving U.S. President

When presidential hopefuls envision their time in office, it’s almost certain that none dream of anything less than a four year stint. Most probably aspire to eight. But a surprisingly high 23% of all U.S. presidents—10 out of our 43 commanders in chief—never made it through a single full term.

So why have so many of our nation’s chief executives called the White House home for less than four years? To find out, see the list compiled by research engine FindTheBest below.

 

10. John Tyler

In office 3.92 years

1841-1845

John Tyler came the closest to completing four years in office of all 10 presidents on the list above. He was also the first president to reach the White House without being elected to office, assuming the title upon President Harrison’s death in 1841. Although he started running for reelection in the 1844 campaign, he withdrew his candidacy in August due to insufficient support from the Whig party.

 

9. Andrew Johnson

In office 3.86 years

1865-1869

Andrew Johnson ascended to the presidency after President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Johnson wanted a quick reconciliation with the South in post-Civil War America, so he didn’t give protection to former slaves, and was impeached by the House of Representatives in 1868 as a result. He was acquitted by the Senate by one vote, and remained in office to see his term through, but had lost the support he needed to run for reelection in 1870.

 

8. Chester A. Arthur

In office 3.86 years

1881-1885

Chester A. Arthur became the fourth vice president to attain the presidency through the death of a predecessor—in this case, James A. Garfield. Arthur chose not to run for reelection, and returned to practicing law instead. Almost a year after his presidency ended, however, he fell ill and died.

 

7. John F. Kennedy

In office 2.83 years

1961-1963

Perhaps one of the most well-known and beloved presidents, John F. Kennedy was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald in 1963. Oswald was arrested on the same day of the assassination, but he was shot and killed by a man named Jack Ruby two days later. While the FBI and the Warren Commission investigation concluded that Oswald had acted alone, the exact details of what happened are still a mystery, and many conspiracy theories abound.

 

6. Millard Fillmore

In office 2.67 years

1850-1853

Millard Fillmore was the last Whig president, and took office after the death of President Taylor in 1850. Unlike the other vice presidents on this list who did not seek reelection, Fillmore threw his hat in the ring in 1852, but lost the Whig nomination to his secretary of state, Daniel Webster. He also ran on the American Party ticket in 1856, but came in third place.

 

5. Warren G. Harding

In office 2.42 years

1921-1923

Warren G. Harding campaigned on the promise of a “return to normalcy” after the First World War. He’s most well-known for the Teapot Dome Scandal, but in recent years has been viewed more positively as a moderate politician who passed the first federal child welfare program and endorsed African-American civil rights. He intended to run for reelection in 1924, but passed away for unknown reasons in 1923. The most likely reason for his death is heart failure, but some have speculated that he was poisoned or committed suicide.

 

4. Gerald Ford

In office 2.42 years

1974-1977

Gerald Ford is the only person to rise to both the presidency and the vice presidency without being elected. He was appointed to the vice presidency when Spiro Agnew resigned in the face of extortion, bribery, and conspiracy charges, and was elevated to the presidency upon Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Ford ran for reelection, defeating Reagan for the Republican nomination, but lost to Jimmy Carter in the presidential election.

 

3. Zachary Taylor

In office 1.33 years

1849-1850

Zachary Taylor rose to stardom when he led (and won) several battles in the Mexican-American War, helping America keep control over the annexed territory of Texas. Although he had little interest in politics, he was persuaded to leverage his popularity and run for the presidency in 1849. Taylor won the election, but died of a stomach related illness shortly into his term.

2. James A. Garfield

In office .54 years

1881-1881

James A. Garfield was elected in 1881, but only served for a few months before he was shot by outraged political office seeker Charles J. Guiteau. Although Garfield was shot in June, he passed away (officially leaving office) 80 days later in September 1881. During his short time as president, Garfield appointed a justice to the U.S. Supreme Court and proposed a civil service reform act that was eventually passed into law by his successor, Chester A. Arthur.

 

1. William Henry Harrison

In office .08 years

1841-1841

William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia 32 days into his term, claiming the title for shortest presidency by a longshot. It had generally been believed that Harrison caught a cold that lead to pneumonia during his inauguration, where he delivered the longest address in American history, in stormy weather without a coat or gloves. But a 2014 analysis shows that the president actually died of typhoid, and likely contracted it in a marsh close to the White House.

 

FindTheBest is a research website that’s collected all the data on U.S.. presidents, and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it. Join FindTheBest to get all the information on presidents, Congress members, and thousands of other topics.

TIME States

These Governors Return Their Salary To The State

Every state appropriates its governor a salary, but not every governor accepts it. Some return a percentage to the state, while others forgo any compensation whatsoever.

Not all governors take full pay for the job.

Some take a small salary cut for symbolic reasons. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for example, took a 5 percent salary reduction in 2011. “Change starts at the top and we will lead by example,” he said in a press conference announcing the cut. “Families and business owners in every corner of the state have learned to do more with less in order to live within their means and government must do the same.”

Others, like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder with a net worth of about $200 million, simply don’t need the money.

Curious to see every other governor who forgoes all or part of their salary? See the list compiled by research engine FindTheBest with data from the National Governors Association below.

First on the list is Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, who takes a salary reduction for neither symbolic or wealth reasons, but has simply refused several cost-of-living adjustments during his time in office, keeping the $175,000 salary he had when he started in 2011. If Gov. Corbett took his full $187,256 salary, he’d be the highest-paid governor in the nation. Instead, he’s tied for second with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.

Next up are Governors Steve Beshear and Peter Shumlin. Like Gov. Cuomo, they initially took salary reductions to represent solidarity with constituents during tough times. Gov. Beshear, for example, took his reduction in 2009 to share the burden of Kentucky state budget cuts, and Gov. Shumlin took his in light of a $150 million deficit in Vermont in 2010.

Then there’s Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who—like Gov. Snyder—refuses his salary because he’s amassed so much wealth elsewhere, reporting a net worth of $132 million last year. And while it’s unclear what kind of wealth Gov. Bill Haslam has, his brother Jimmy Haslam—CEO of Pilot Flying J and owner of the NFL’s Cleveland Browns—is worth about $1.45 billion.

In fact, the only governor to sacrifice his entire salary who does not fit the uber wealthy mold is Gov. Robert Bentley of Alabama. Bentley reported a high, but not extremely high, income of $372,687 in 2013, none of which came from his $119,950 governor’s salary. $119,950 would be a noticeable contribution to his bottom line, but Gov. Bentley refuses to collect a dime until Alabama reaches a full employment rate, meaning the unemployment rate drops to 5.2 percent.

FindTheBest is a research website that’s collected all the data on governors and Congress members, and put it all in one place so you don’t have to go searching for it. Join FindTheBest to get all the information on governors, Congress members, and thousands of other topics.

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