Because of a quirk in the original constitutional framework, John Adams’s defeated opponent, Thomas Jefferson, actually served as his vice president for four years before going on to oust him in 1800. After John Quincy Adams won the presidency in 1825 in a four-way contest thrown to the House, his opponent Andrew Jackson accused him of securing victory through a “corrupt bargain” with another rival and spent four years plotting revenge before winning in 1828.
William Howard Taft had to live with his attention-magnet predecessor and mentor Theodore Roosevelt, who then turned on his erstwhile protégé to challenge him in 1912 in a race that both ultimately lost to Woodrow Wilson. Herbert Hoover was a vocal critic of Franklin D. Roosevelt long after losing the 1932 election and hoped to mount a comeback attempt but never generated enough support to win his party’s nomination again.
The only president ever to successfully recapture the White House after losing it, as Mr. Trump may seek to do, was Grover Cleveland, who fell to Benjamin Harrison in 1888 then beat him in 1892. But even though Cleveland waited in the wings, Harrison had a relatively free hand at being president without his rival stealing the limelight every day.
“Joe Biden faces vastly more pressure from his predecessor than Benjamin Harrison did,” said Troy Senik, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush whose new biography of Cleveland, “A Man of Iron,” will be published on Sept. 20. “Unlike Donald Trump, Grover Cleveland largely stayed out of the public eye after losing re-election in 1888, rarely spoke in public, and was deeply hesitant about running for another term.”
The prospect of being haunted by a predecessor drove Gerald R. Ford to pardon Richard M. Nixon after Watergate drove the 37th president out of office. Ford did not want his entire administration absorbed by the spectacle of a former president being investigated and put on trial. But Mr. Biden made clear early on that he would not similarly grant clemency to Mr. Trump even if it meant a distracting narrative during his own presidency.
Mr. Biden’s aides said they hope to use the distracting narrative as a contrast to make a point. To win back disaffected Democrats and left-leaning independents concerned that Mr. Biden was not following through on his campaign promises, the White House plans to make the case that the legislation and other actions of recent weeks demonstrate that he is, even if belatedly, achieving priorities that matter to them.