Herman Cain will get a nationally syndicated radio show next year, following in the footsteps of other terrible presidential candidates who became successful media stars.
Most people who run for our nation's highest office fall into one of two camps — serious career politicians and fame-seekers who want to sell books. (Although sometimes those two categories overlap.) In fact, most assumed his Amazon PageRank was the only reason Cain was even running until he accidentally became a front-runner.
When a presidential dream dies, however, those dreamers have just a handful of options — return to whatever House of Congress they came from and become an "elder statesman" (see: John McCain, Dick Gephardt, Lamar Alexander); retire completely (see: Bob Dole); or just keep running for president forever and ever (see: Harold Stassen, Lyndon LaRouche).
The final option is get a radio or TV show and parlay that serious sounding moniker "former presidential candidate" into a lifetime of respectable punditry. Like "Academy Award Nominee" they can never take it away from you, no matter how many C-list horror movies you star in.
Here are some of the other notable contenders to spin presidential failure into media gold. Most never had a real chance to become their party's nominee, but in America everyone gets a second chance at stardom as long as MSNBC has hours to fill.
* * *
Pat Robertson (1988): His Christian Broadcasting Network and its flagship show, The 700 Club, had been on the air for decades when he launched his surprisingly strong, though ultimately doomed, Republican challenge. (He did finish second in Iowa.) Still, a few months on the campaign trail is always good for ratings and way less messy than blaming natural disasters on devil worship.
David Duke (1998, 1992): Duke actually ran as both a Republican and a Democrat, and while his previous job (as Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan) will forever make him toxic to mainstream TV and radio, he's made a nice living selling books about Jewish conspiracies and can still occasionally be called upon for a convenient (if racist) quote.
Pat Buchanan (1992, 2000): After working in two Republican White Houses and starring as a featured player on the pioneering partisan yell-fests CNN's Crossfire and The McLaughlin Group, Buchanan was a consummate Washington figure, but not very well-known of outside the Beltway. That changed with his first presidential run in 1992, which ended in failure, but led to a fiery convention speech — that introduced America to the phrase "culture war" — and earned him a reputation as one of the more outrageous and unpredictable Republican voices. After his second run in 2002, Buchanan got his own show on MSNBC and even after it was canceled he remained a semi-permanent talking head on the network... before he got fired earlier this year.
Steve Forbes (1996, 2000): His very name is synonymous with fantastic wealth — thanks to the magazine founded by his grandfather — so he didn't need the money or a leg up in the media biz. What he did need was more converts to his single pet issue: the flat income tax. He got that and likely a few new subscriptions to his family magazine.
Alan Keyes (1996, 2000, 2008): A former diplomat and three-time presidential (and three-time Senate) loser, Keyes also scored his own MSNBC show in 2002, though it was quickly canceled due to poor ratings.
Al Sharpton (2004): After a lifetime of outspoken and often controversial activism, Sharpton actually had to dial down a lot of his previous rhetoric during his brief run in 2004. It paid off, though, since despite garnering almost no votes and dropping out quickly, Sharpton picked up a syndicated radio show on Sirus XM and an hour-long talk program on MSNBC.
Mike Huckabee (2008): The former Arkansas governor nearly nabbed the Republican nomination four years ago, but has done all right for himself since. Unlike many of those on this list, his Fox News show is still on the air and his daily radio show is now a direct challenger to Rush Limbaugh. Becoming a legitimate media sensation surely made it a lot easier to to turn down calls for a second run in 2012.
Sarah Palin (VP, 2008): While not an actual presidential candidate herself, the ex-Alaskan governor managed to turn a two-month run as the Republican veep nominee into two best-selling books, a reality TV show, and side careers for her daughter, her daughter's baby daddy, and Tina Fey. While a Fox News show would be hers for the taking, she's remained a mere talking head for now, soaking up Facebook fans while she sits forever in-waiting for her next media or political opportunity.
Al Gore (1992, 2000): His first presidential run got him a VP gig. His second sent him down in history as the worst hard-luck loser of all time. The good news is that since that defeat he's starred in an Oscar-winning documentary, wrote a Grammy-winning audio book, founded a Emmy-winning TV network, and won his very own Nobel Peace Prize. The only actual party nominee on this list, he's arguably had the most successful media career of all. Maybe losing Florida wasn't such a bad deal.