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What is a Concession Speech?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A concession speech is a speech which is made by a politician after it becomes evident that he or she has lost an election. The content of a concession speech can sometimes be very interesting or revealing, especially in the case of concession speeches made during a region-by-region primary, in which case the politician typically concedes a single election without giving up on the nomination. Transcripts and video of concession speeches are generally available on major news networks.

The concession speech is considered a professional courtesy, with a losing politician graciously acknowledging the loss and congratulating the winner and his or her campaign. In addition, politicians often use concession speeches as an opportunity to thank their supporters for their hard work. Concession speeches typically occur late in the night on election day, as politicians want to wait for election results to be confirmed before they concede the election.

In a few notable cases, election results have taken some time to process, resulting in a period of uncertainty for the politicians involved in these races. In some instances, a politician who suspects that he or she may lose may choose to concede before all the results are ratified in an attempt to bring the period of limbo to an end, although the ballots will continue to be processed by the agency which handles election results. In rare cases, a politician concedes and later wins the election, thanks to the involved ballot counting process.

If a politician intends to run again at some point, a concession speech will typically indicate that he or she remains committed to the cause and that while victory may have evaded the politician on this occasion, it is possible in the future. In these instances, supporters will be encouraged to continue supporting the politician and her or her campaigns, with reminders that financial donations, canvassing, and other advocacy work are still very important. In the case of a politician who will not run again, supporters are thanked for their work, and the politician may endorse a successor.

In primary elections, concession speeches are often topics of intense analysis and discussion. They can also indicate shifts in campaign strategy, as candidates try to figure out why they lost particular regional primaries and attempt to avoid such losses in the future. When politicians drop out of the race, supporters tend to eagerly await the endorsement of another candidate from the party during a concession speech, and the lack of such an endorsement is generally viewed as impolite.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Historical Index researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Crispety — On Oct 09, 2010

Sunshine31-I think John McCain's concession speech was also gracious. It was admirable how he immediately told the public to rally with Obama that he had become our next president.

John McCain's concession speech was sad for him because of his age.

It was going to be the last time he would run for the president. Hillary concession speech was very difficult for her to make because she was thought to have been the front runner and almost the shoe in for the Democratic nomination.

Her speech displayed a neutral tone and did not appear as gracious as some other concession speeches. This was a difficult loss for her to take and it showed when he offered her concession speech.

But at least she can run again. John Mc Cain’s speech really noted that he would not run again which made it sad for him.

By sunshine31 — On Oct 09, 2010

I think the more gracious the concession speech is the more positive the candidate looks in the voter's mind.

One of the most memorable concession speeches has to be the Al Gore speech in 2000. The Al Gore concession speech was memorable because the election was so close.

He lost the election by a little over 500 votes in the state of Florida. He lost in the Electoral College but had the majority of the popular vote.

This case caused people to wonder about the legitimacy of the Electoral College. Everyone knew that losing the presidency to such a small margin was very difficult.

And after the court challenges were exhausted and the Supreme Court favored George W. Bush. There was really nothing more to do than to offer a concession speech.

Al Gore's concession speech was really touching because at the end he started to cry and many people remember that.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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