To the victors go the spoils. Still, in the Democratic presidential contest four years ago, the losers did pretty well.
Joe Biden is vice president and Hillary Clinton is secretary of state. Chris Dodd went on to be the Senate co-author of the seminal Dodd-Frank financial reform bill and now is the head of the Motion Picture Association of America. (Ok, let’s skip John Edwards.)
Similarly, in the 1980 Republican nominating race, the also-rans had bright futures. George H.W. Bush became vice president and later, president. Howard Baker and Bob Dole both went on to be Senate Majority leaders; the former subsequently became a White House chief of staff, and the latter, his party’s nominee for president.
In seven weeks, four or five of the current Republican presidential aspirants will no longer be in the race; one or two likely will be gone a month later.
Underscoring the unusual weakness of this contingent, unlike the 1980 or 2008 fields, there is no one in this crop likely to be a future candidate or top player in a Republican administration.
Some, however, may parlay their current prominence into other endeavors, maybe some big bucks; these include:
MITT ROMNEY: If the former Massachusetts governor doesn’t win the presidency he’ll be a political outcast in his own party, which already is suspicious of him. The once hugely successful buyout specialist may go back to making money.
Ultimately, it isn’t hard to see Romney, whose fervor for the Mormon faith runs deep, becoming president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. When he was in his 30s, Romney was bishop of his congregation and president of the Boston-area church. He would be the most visible leader of the fast-growing and controversial denomination since Brigham Young.
Age wouldn’t be a barrier for the 64-year-old; the current president is 84, and it’s not uncommon for Mormon presidents to be in their 90s. The prohibition against smoking, drinking and other transgressions leads to a longer lifespan, it would seem.
NEWT GINGRICH: The former speaker believes he’ll either be president, or may aspire to be secretary of state or defense in a Romney administration. All those outcomes are unlikely.
Since being discredited as House speaker and forced to leave Congress, the self-styled entrepreneur has shown an ability to monetize Gingrich Inc., pulling in huge “consulting” fees from special interests ranging from Freddie Mac to health-insurance companies and even a few blue-chip corporations. He has been secretive about what he does for these bucks; he hasn’t registered as a lobbyist and demands non-disclosure agreements of his clients. If he runs a respectable race, he may mine more gold in them special-interest hills.
HERMAN CAIN: The 65-year-old former pizza executive’s fall in the presidential preference polls looks to be as rapid as his rise. His post-campaign financial prospects seem greater than imagined, assuming that the sexual-harassment allegations against him don’t get any worse.
He’s likely to get a cable-television show, perhaps even setting off a bidding war with Fox and CNN. Cain already was something of a figure on the motivational speaking circuit. He’s likely to be in more demand and rake in bigger bucks in the future. Conservatives love a black validator.
RICK SANTORUM: The former Pennsylvania senator probably leaves the smallest footprint among the contestants. Although he is just 53, future elected office seems unlikely. Polls in his home state show that he’d get clobbered in a rematch with the Democratic incumbent senator, Bob Casey.
A talk show on radio, not television, seems most likely for this candidate.
RICK PERRY: He will serve another three years as governor of Texas -- he could run for another term in 2014, though acquaintances doubt that he will. In any case, he has plenty of time left in office to dole out favors. He has made a lot of rich friends during his 11 years as governor and some may show their appreciation when he steps down.
As much as making money, the 61-year-old Perry probably dreams of being president of Texas A&M University, his alma mater, where he was once a “Yell Leader,” or top cheerleader. It’s been more than 100 years since a former governor of Texas became president of A&M. Perry’s stumbles in the campaign may make such a possibility a tough sell.
MICHELE BACHMANN: Some Republicans suspect the 55-year-old Minnesota congresswoman, despite denials, will run again for her House seat. She can decide as late as May 5, and would be a re-election favorite, though redistricting has made hers a less safe Republican seat.
In or out of Congress, Bachmann will remain a force in the conservative Christian movement on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. More than politics, this is her natural habitat.
JON HUNTSMAN: On paper, the 51-year-old former Utah governor would appear to have the brightest future in the field. He is wealthy, attractive, and has acquired lots of foreign experience as a former ambassador to China and Singapore. Huntsman, however, is a pariah in certain Republican conservative circles.
He also may be hampered by his decision to move his residence from Utah to Washington, which isn’t an ideal launching pad for any quest for office as a member of his party. If any serious independent movement surfaces in America after this campaign, it might be a natural pick for Huntsman.
RON PAUL: There won’t be a fourth presidential campaign for the 76-year-old Texas libertarian. Still, this contest has been good for him.
His message and popularity are resonating far more than in his earlier efforts; and he’s developed an almost cult-like following. Moreover, he has a natural successor to inherit his national base: his 48-year-old son Rand, the freshman U.S. senator from Kentucky.
(Albert R. Hunt is the executive editor for Washington at Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
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