Elizabeth Dole, Republican, 2000: Although George W. Bush was very popular in early 1999, Dole was no slouch. She had been head of the Red Cross, and she had served as both secretary of labor and transportation. Her early net favorable ratings were identical to Barack Obama’s in 2007, but she couldn’t raise money and was out of the race by October 1999.
Joe Lieberman, Democrat, 2004: Lieberman was ahead in early polls and was fairly popular among Democratic voters because of his 2000 vice presidential bid. He had a better net-favorable-to-name-recognition ratio than the eventual nominee, John Kerry. Lieberman was done in by his pro-Iraq War stance with a party base that was decidedly anti-war by the time the votes were cast. Lieberman won zero primaries (though his campaign did give the country the word “Joementum.”)
John Edwards, Democrat, 2008: Speaking of Democratic vice presidential nominees, John Edwards’s net favorable rating in early 2007 was only 1 percentage point lower than Obama’s, and both had pretty much the same name recognition. But what everyone saw as a three-person top-tier — Obama, Hillary Clinton and Edwards — turned out to be a duo, with Edwards left out in the cold. He placed second in the Iowa caucus, and his campaign was over.