Primary ‘losers’ could play key role in presidential race

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2012

One of the unique aspects about politics is that it often rewards those who are tenacious. There is an oft-quoted email about Abraham Lincoln, detailing the multitude of political races that he repeatedly lost, before eventually becoming president. Richard Nixon lost one of the closest elections in history to John F. Kennedy, but still became president years later.

John McCain lost the Republican nomination to George W. Bush in 2000, but then earned the nomination eight years later as he attempted to succeed Bush in office. I am especially intrigued by the coming presidential election, because I believe two previous “losers” could eventually play a key role.

One of those losers is Mitt Romney, who finished second to McCain in the 2008 Republican presidential nomination race. Romney is considered the frontrunner to earn the 2012 GOP nomination, which could mark the second-straight year that the Republicans choose a candidate who is considered “moderate,” or arguably even on the liberal end of the spectrum.

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However, some political pundits also expect the second-place Democratic finisher to play a key role in the 2012 presidential race. Who finished second to Barack Obama in 2008? It was none other than Hillary Clinton, the current Secretary of State.

Many experts surmise that Obama might replace his current vice president, Joe Biden, with Clinton. Biden would then likely serve as the new Secretary of State, if Obama is re-elected.

From an outsider’s point of view, I can see how this would make sense. Clinton is still extremely popular among Democratic Party voters, and Biden has been a gaffe machine. Many polls show that Obama is losing favor with women voters, and Clinton would likely allow him to regain some of those who were riding the fence. In addition, it sets Clinton up as the de-facto Democratic presidential favorite in 2016.

I remember that McCain’s campaign received a considerable boost by the announcement of Sarah Palin as his running mate. It is not inconceivable to believe the same thing might happen if Obama taps Clinton in 2012. However, the Palin boom was short lived and McCain still fell well short of election. It is possible that an Obama-Clinton ticket could have the same short-lived jump.

Regardless of what ultimately happens in the 2012 presidential race, it is interesting to see that runners-up are playing such a crucial role. That certainly bodes well for candidates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, who will likely finish behind Romney but could still have enough political caché built up if they want to run again in 2016.

Justin Schuver is the managing editor of The Post-Searchlight. You can email him at