If Obama Loses, Part III

Part III, Will he ever run again for the Presidency, and when?

In part one I addressed the issue of potential recriminations and riots. In part two I discussed what Obama might do with the rest of his life. In part three below I consider whether Obama will ever end up running for president again, and when.

by Scott L. Vanatter

What if Obama loses in November? Will he ever run again for the Presidency, and when?

During the recent Al Smith Dinner in New York City Obama stated that this current campaign will be his last run for public office. This line may well reveal his true intentions, today. Politically, his statement is infused with the unspoken message to adoring liberals, progressives, and even socialists (as unhappy with him as they may be) that this is – warning — the last chance to vote for him. If they fail to support him here in 2012, he will walk away into the sunset and do his own thing.

Why do most one-term presidents choose not run again? They are either too old, out of energy, out of ideas, or lacking in accomplishments and support. Having been rejected, they feel unappreciated, unwelcome. They retire.

A handful of former presidents have run for public office after having left office. John Quincy Adams was elected to the House of Representatives served for many years decrying slavery. Martin Van Buren made two other failed runs for the Presidency, once as a Democrat, then four years later as the Free Soil Party candidate. John Tyler was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. Millard Fillmore ran four years later for President as the candidate of the Know Nothing Party, garnering 21% of the popular vote. Andrew Johnson ran for and lost campaigns for the Senate and the House, then finally successfully ran for and was elected to the U.S. Senate. Grover Cleveland is the only President to serve two non-continuous terms. After initially losing reelection, he returned to his law practice in New York City. Later still he was elected president of the Association of Presidents of Life Insurance Companies. Theodore Roosevelt later failed to gain the nomination for the Republican Party, so he started his own Progressive “Bull Moose” Party, finishing second in the national elections. William Howard Taft was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Harding.

So, John Quincy Adams, Grover Cleveland, and William Howard Taft stand as sentinels beckoning to former President Obama to meet or exceed their high marks.

Capitol Hill

Obama could take the route paved by John Quincy Adams and serve out his days on Capitol Hill (Andrew Johnson actually did get himself elected to the U.S. Senate). When Bill Clinton retired from the presidency, it was speculated that he might want to serve in the Senate. But he set his sights higher. Will Obama also set his sights higher? Conveniently, there is no real accountability in such open ended initiatives. He would be free to speak, and dream, and do as much good as he could. With a bit of golf interspersed. Even a failed one term presidency is tiring and said failed president is due all the rest and relaxation he can grab. But won’t Obama want to do Clinton one better? And Carter?


In 2020 he would be a young 59 years old. In 2024, he would be Mitt Romney’s age now. Surely between 2012 and 2024 Obama will have built a resume of accomplishment – doing some good or great task(s). Surely he will be too young to simply retire and stay retired, writing books and receiving additional unmerited awards. Surely he will want to repair his image. Not as bad as Carter, if he does repair it, it is conceivable that he could run again — unlike Carter. Having done something concrete, he will be in perfect position to run as the wise elder statesman. In the meantime, after licking his wounds, Obama could become the first former president to run for governor. Why not? He could run for governor of Illinois and become a true problem solver, improving the lives of millions in his beloved “home” state.

White House

As he is a relatively young man, the question arises as to whether Obama could be persuaded in the future (or persuade himself) to run again for the office of President. On one hand it would be a big ego boost — not that Obama needs an ego boost — if either in 2020 or 2024 an adoring public yearns to give him a second chance. On the other hand, though he seems to be sincere at the present time about not running, if he was to lose this election, he has just enough competitive juices that in either eight or twelve years he would still be young enough to make another run. He could swoop in to save the party in 2020 when Hillary loses to Romney in 2016. Hence, Obama will seek to become the first President elected to two non-consecutive terms, separated by two terms.

Supreme Court

Perhaps as a wild fallback position, Obama can Hope against Hope that Hillary or some other Democrat wins in the future and he is appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, like Taft. This, though, is a path fraught with risk. What if no other Democrat is elected President for another 20 years, then he would be out of luck with respect to the Court. His only Hope is to win the Presidency outright, then appoint himself Chief Justice!

If Obama loses in 2012 — or even if he wins — it will be interesting to see what path he actually takes post-Presidency. Like Kennedy’s Camelot, Obama still inspires and probably will inspire his supporters into the foreseeable future. The problem with Obama’s term is the same tangible lack of serious accomplishment as Kennedy’s. There is no “there” there; not enough substance to match the Hope or the Dream.