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June 28, 2013 11:33 AM Falling Up

By Ed Kilgore

It’s a Friday at the end of a heavy news week, so let’s indulge in a frivolous topic: the subsequent careers of 2012 Republican presidential candidates, a motley crew of has-beens and never-weres who nonetheless capered across our TV screens frequently during the 2012 cycle.

Playing off the news that Newt Gingrich will be one of the regulars on a revived “Crossfire” show (about which you, gentle readers, expressed a collective “ugh” when I asked about it), Slate’s Dave Wiegel ranks the eleven failed 2012 GOP presidentials in terms of how much good the race seems to have done for their careers at this point. Let’s cover some highlights.

Michele Bachmann obviously ranks last, and that’s even without factoring in the possibility that ethics investigations could follow her into retirement.

At number 9, there’s The Mittster:

Maybe the least-loved losing candidate of either major party since Michael Dukakis. There is no Mitt Romney legacy in the GOP—Paul Ryan was an iconic figure before Romney got to him and tarred him with the loser brush.

He’s closely followed by Rick Perry:

No campaign has fallen apart as spectaculary as this one. Rudy Giuliani’s 2008 bid was always going to run up against the barricades of GOP social conservatism. Perry was a perfect-on-paper candidate who ran when it was too late, and after he had gone loopy from undisclosed experimental back surgery. He returned to govern a state that’s still booming, but he’s diminished as a national figure.

I’d add to Perry’s legacy of failure that he showed the peril for Republicans of ever, ever, ever letting primary rivals get to your Right on the immigration issue. Because the mind reels from past nightmares, I think we’ve all forgotten that moment in the summer of 2011 when Perry looked likely to crush the GOP field and perhaps roll right into the White House.

Wiegel thinks TimPaw did reasonably well for himself:

Would the Financial Services Roundtable have hired him had his profile not been boosted by years of running for president? He’s benefited financially from the campaign like no other candidate.

Yeah, but TimPaw also has to be kicking himself for blowing his budget on a futile effort to win a meaningless straw poll, and then closing his campaign only to watch jokes like Cain and Gingrich leap into serious contention. Other than Perry, Pawlenty ran the most inscrutably incompetent campaign; he should have been the obvious Un-Romney. What might have been was demonstrated by Wiegel’s Number One Survivor from ‘12:

I vividly remember the 2008 Values Voter Summit in D.C., when I ran into an incredibly bored-looking Santorum manning an exhibit hall booth. He was running an organization that offered to place Christian-specific V-chips in TVs, and trying to end conversations with teenagers who wouldn’t stop talking. Five years later, he’s enough of a national figure that reporters will quote his opinion when the Supreme Court rules or Congress kills a bill. He’s received, for the first time, sympathetic press coverage about his personal life (namely his disabled daughter, who has long outlived doctors’ pessimistic predictions). He’s doing OK, thanks to his awareness that being “the non-Mormon guy who didn’t have an affair” would be a great position in the stretch of a primary season dominated by Mitt Romney.

Yeah, there are worse things one can do for one’s career than running for president.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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