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Romney's loss: How he compares to other presidential also-rans

Writer Scott Farris, author of 'Almost President,' discusses how the former presidential nominee stacks up against other men who lost their bid for the highest office in the land.

By Randy Dotinga / November 8, 2012

Presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who lost the race Nov. 6, 2012 to Barack Obama, must now address a question faced by a relatively small group of fellow Americans: What do you do after you unsuccessfully run for president?

Charles Dhaparak/AP


My spell-checker doesn't like losers.

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It recognizes presidential last names, even Fillmore, Van Buren, and Coolidge. But it's dumbfounded by McCain and McGovern, let alone Willkie, Frémont, and Breckinridge.

Such is the fate of most of the major candidates who make it onto presidential ballots, but no further. Some are forever forgotten (Thomas Pinckney, anyone?). But others manage to make a mark despite coming up short.

Where will Mitt Romney fit in? For perspective, I contacted author Scott Farris, a leading specialist in presidential also-rans who wrote 2011's "Almost President: The Men Who Lost the Race but Changed the Nation."

Farris has some experience with the phenomenon of non-winning: he's run campaigns, been a political columnist, and even ran for Congress in Wyoming in 1998. (He lost.)

From his home in Portland, Ore., Farris considered Romney's options, pondered the fates of the second-placers, and looked back at a sore loser or two.
Q: What's next for Romney?
A: He's made it clear – or at least his wife has – that this is his last campaign. That eliminates the option of the loser making one more run at the presidency, which doesn't happen as often as it used to.

I look at him and think about Bob Dole in 1996. The day after the election, he held a press conference and said that, for the first time in 50 years, "I don't know what I'm going to do today."

That's a bit where Mitt Romney is.

Dole wrote a couple of books, he did some advertising – some of it notorious, like for Viagra and a controversial spot for Pepsi. He made a lot of speeches and ended up reconnecting with George McGovern to work to combat world hunger.

They ended up saving hundreds of thousands of children. It's been a very admirable career.

My guess is that Romney will do a hodgepodge of things. Could he be one of his church's leaders and continue to try to gain acceptance of the Mormon faith? He also obviously has a big family and will spend a lot of time with them.

I'm sure it will take some time for him to find himself.
Q: Who are some losers who set a high standards?
A: For the first 150 years of the US, it was OK to be a loser, you weren't stigmatized. Henry Clay lost but remained very influential. And William Jennings Bryan was an extremely influential man for a quarter century.

There are so many ways to serve.


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