- Every presidential election has its winners and its losers.
- The unsuccessful candidates move on to different careers with different paths.
- Some are still active in politics today while others have virtually disappeared.
When a United States presidential candidate and their running mate win the biggest election of their lifetimes, it dramatically takes the world on an alternative path. But for the losing candidates, they have to pick up the pieces and move on.
Some failed candidates stay in politics and experience more success, while others venture in entirely different directions. Here’s what became of all the failed presidential and vice presidential candidates since the election in 2000.
Hillary Clinton — 2016 Democratic presidential nominee
When Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump in 2016, it was a major upset. Clinton has since authored a book about the experience, titled, “What Happened?” She has also embarked on a speaking tour with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.
The former secretary of state and US senator has been rumored to still be considering another presidential run, but that speculation has so far been unfounded.
Tim Kaine — 2016 Democratic vice presidential nominee
Tim Kaine returned to his work in the United States Senate. In the 2018 midterms, he handily defeated Republican challenger Corey Stewart and coasted to re-election. Kaine has since ruled out running for president in 2020.
Mitt Romney — 2012 Republican presidential nominee
After losing to former President Barack Obama in 2012, Mitt Romney earned large sums of money on speaking tours. Romney then ran for Senate in 2018 to succeed retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch. Now a senator, Romney is a member of the influential Foreign Relations Committee.
Paul Ryan — 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan went on to chair the powerful House Committee on Ways & Means after losing the 2012 election. In 2015, Ryan reluctantly became speaker of the House until the end of 2018, when he chose not to seek re-election after 20 years in Congress.
John McCain — 2008 Republican presidential nominee
After losing to Obama in 2008, John McCain returned to the Senate, where he had been serving since 1987. McCain died on August 25, 2018 after being diagnosed and treated for brain cancer.
Sarah Palin — 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin remained a prominent figure in the transformation of the Republican party during the Tea Party congressional electoral waves of the Obama administration.
Since running in 2008, Palin has launched several media ventures including an online streaming channel, a television show, and a website that aggregates news from a conservative stance.
Palin became an ardent supporter of Donald Trump’s election bid.
John Kerry — 2004 Democratic presidential nominee
John Kerry returned to work in the Senate after failing to unseat former President George W. Bush in 2004.
In 2013, Kerry succeeded Hillary Clinton as secretary of state under Obama. In 2018, Kerry published his memoirs titled, “Everyday is Extra.”
John Edwards — 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee
John Edwards attempted his own run for president in 2008, but dropped out as his campaign floundered.
In 2011, Edwards was indicted on six felony counts of campaign finance violations, which were used to conceal an extramarital affair and child he had with a woman while his wife was dying of brain cancer.
The felony charges were all declared a mistrial except one, of which he was found not guilty. Edwards now runs a private practice law firm in North Carolina.
Al Gore — 2000 Democratic presidential nominee
After former Vice President Al Gore lost to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush in 2000, he made an Academy Award-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.”
Gore has since been one of the world’s leading advocates on stopping human-caused climate change, winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.
Joe Lieberman — 2000 Democratic vice presidential nominee
Joe Lieberman officially left the Democratic Party in 2006 after losing a primary election for his third term as a US senator from Connecticut. He became in an independent and won his third and final term in the Senate.
Lieberman has since retired from the Senate, but remained active in Washington.
In 2018, Lieberman became a lobbyist for Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE and regularly appears on cable news.