Since getting thumped by Barack Obama in the presidential election last month, Mitt Romney has been virtually out of sight (save for some CostCo, gas station, and Disneyland sightings.) At the same time, failed 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry is enjoying a career resurgence, being nominated to succeed Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. How do their paths compare to other presidential losers? Here's what happened to several other big-time presidential candidates after their dreams were dashed:
1984: Walter Mondale
The Minnesota senator got steamrolled by Ronald Reagan in 1984, but decided to remain in politics, serving as U.S. Ambassador to Japan from 1993 to 1996. And in 2002, after Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone of Minnesota died in a plane crash just short of the November election, Mondale quickly stepped in on the ballot. The 74-year-old Mondale lost. Last month, Mondale announced that he's stepping down from his teaching position at the University of Minnesota. Now 84, he said that he's not retiring, but "moving on to where I feel I can be helpful."
1988: Michael Dukakis
After the Democratic governor of Massachusetts was embarrassed in his 1988 campaign against George H.W. Bush, he finished out his term in the Bay State, then decided that he'd had enough of politics. He settled into a life of teaching, becoming a professor of political science at nearby Northeastern University, and a visiting professor in the Department of Public Policy at the School of Public Affairs at UCLA. In recent years, Dukakis has re-emerged as something of a political player, working in 2006 to help Massachusetts Democratic Deval Patrick get elected governor. By 2009, Dukakis was again the subject of political rumors as a possible interim successor to Ted Kennedy in the Senate. And just last week, Dukakis was shooting down similar speculation about Kerry's vacated seat. He's still teaching at UCLA today.
1992 and 1996: Ross Perot
The quirky Texas businessman gave it his all in 1992 and 1996, putting up the best numbers of any third-party candidate in decades. In 1996, Perot founded the Reform Party, but by 2000, the party was undone by internal conflicts, and Perot essentially left the political arena. Perot has since retired from business, and has turned his attention to writing a series of books about his business and himself, including his upcoming 2013 autobiography Ross Perot: My Life. He briefly broke his public silence when he did a USA Today interview in October and backed Romney for president.
1996: Bob Dole
After Bill Clinton crushed him in 1996, Dole retired from politics. Since then, the ex-Kansas senator has carried on in the national spotlight thanks to his appearances in commercials for several products and companies, most memorably for Viagra. In 1997, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service in the military and in politics. He went on to receive the American Patriot Award seven years later. To this day, Dole remains active in the fight against child hunger and poverty. Some medical issues in recent years have slowed Dole down, but in early December, he appeared on the Senate floor to advocate on behalf of the disabled in other countries. Dole is also special counsel at the D.C. law firm Alston & Bird.
2000: Al Gore
After Gore lost an impossibly close race to George W. Bush in 2000, he made it clear he was done with politics. That changed after the 2006 release of the An Inconvenient Truth, which instantly made Gore the unofficial spokesman for the climate change movement. Gore's popularity went through the roof. He has since won the Nobel Peace Prize, a Primetime Emmy Award, and the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation. He has also advised Google, served on Apple's board, and founded Current TV.
2004: John Kerry
The Massachusetts Democrat, who might well have been crushed after losing a very winnable race to George W. Bush, returned to the Senate, where he became the chamber's top Democrat on foreign-relations issues. He is widely expected to easily win confirmation as secretary of state in early 2013.
2008: John McCain
McCain, of course, is still very much in the spotlight. After losing the 2008 campaign to Obama in a landslide, the Republican senator returned to his seat representing Arizona, and has remained there ever since. At times, he's been one of the most vocal critics of the Obama administration's policies, and often appeared with Romney on the 2012 campaign trail.
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