Professor Romney? Predicting the 2012 Republican Nominee's Future

Don't expect to see the former candidate back in politics. But the board room, the Mormon Church, or philanthropy might be good bets.

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Reuters

It's a pretty sure bet that we won't be hearing from Mitt Romney about the rejuvenating qualities of Viagra, or find ourselves preoccupied with his facial hair. So what does lie ahead for the 2012 Republican presidential nominee?

Losing nominees have coped for the most part in ways related to the lives they led before. Romney spent most of his life in business and isn't deeply rooted in a political party or movement. That personal history and his silence so far make his path forward a mystery. Will he recede to a private life centered on family and faith, or play a more public role that he may be just starting to think about?

Washington exerts an irresistible pull on some losing nominees, who want to keep making and molding policy even if not as president. The pioneer was John Quincy Adams, a senator, ambassador and secretary of state who became president in 1825 -- then lost his reelection bid and went on to an illustrious career in the House.

Vice President Hubert Humphrey was another who swallowed his pride. He rose from the Senate to the vice presidency to the 1968 Democratic nomination. After losing, he ran again for the Senate and died in office in 1978. The Senate was "the love of his life," says Lawrence Jacobs, director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota. The 1964 Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, was also a Senate devotee. He served 30 years there in two chunks, one before and one after his landslide loss to Lyndon Johnson.

Bob Dole was in the House and Senate for 35 years before winning the Republican nomination in 1996. He joined a Washington law firm after losing to Bill Clinton (less predictably, he became a spokesman for Viagra). Vice President Walter Mondale, a former two-term senator, also joined a law firm after losing to Ronald Reagan in 1984, and later served as an ambassador to Japan.

Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee, returned to his job as Massachusetts governor, then became a public policy professor -- not a surprise for the man who famously took a book on Swedish land-use planningon a vacation. John Kerry, the Democrats' 2004 nominee, went back to his job as a senator and now is poised to win confirmation as the country's next secretary of state -- another non-surprise, given his internationalist background.

Vice President Al Gore, the 2000 Democratic nominee, was a true creature of Washington. His father was a senator and he himself spent 16 years in the House and Senate followed by eight as vice president. After enduring probably the toughest loss in U.S. history, he dropped out of sight in Spain, gained weight and grew a beard. However, building on decades of commitment to environmental issues, he soon resurfaced as a celebrated proselytizer for action on climate change.

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Jill Lawrence is a national correspondent at National Journal. She was previously a columnist at Politics Daily, national political correspondent at USA Today and national political writer at the Associated Press.

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