And who knows? If you play your cards right, don't attack the top contenders too grievously, and bow out graciously and early enough -- but not too early -- you might win a spot on the ticket as Vice President. You might also get a post in the new Administration, or an Ambassadorship, or some other prize handed out to keep one's friends close, and rivals closer.
Even if no one offers any plum positions, you still walk away from the loss with prizes; knowledge, experience, and sources of revenue -- all essential things to any successful future campaign.
Most importantly, you also win the coveted title of "serious contender" -- a card that can be played in future campaigns to quickly differentiate yourself from current media darlings, Johnny Come Latelies, and people who think money and/or ego alone will get them where they want to go.
So yes, you lose. But you win at the same time. And in the future you can use what you won through that loss to gain a better position, and possibly ride that wave of right cards, right person, and right time right into the Oval Office.
Watching Willard run, we come to Part the Fourth, in which I say that I think that Romney was counting on this not being the right time.
I think he was planning that he was only going to go so far, and then no further. I think he figured that one of the more seemingly stable others -- maybe Perry or Santorum -- was going to eventually gain the upper hand, and then go down in flames come November.
And that's because I think he realized that, given how Barack Obama has seemingly inherited the late Ronald Reagan's Teflon hairdo, there was no way in Hades that the Republicans were going to beat him. Osama bin Laden was dead, the terrorists were on the run, and the economy was most likely going to get better by then, in spite of itself.
So long as he wasn't caught eating live kittens in front of his children, Obama was going to win reelection in 2012. Whoever they sent was dogmeat -- especially if it wound up being someone as ethically compromised as Newt Gingrich, or phony as Herman Cain.
So would Romney weather the storm, perhaps re-entering in its wake to say a few words about the capsized campaign of his now-vanquished rival. He'd continue to say more from time to time, of course, but really just go back to making money, writing books, and wondering how much his wife was spending on their horses.
Then, in four years time, he could return, relatively unscathed, and run against someone who was not Barack Obama. And he would do so from the position that he was a serious contender -- even-tempered in his views and outlook -- and willing to either fix a still-broken economy, or speak to the lapsed morals of the nation. Maybe both?
Unfortunately, that is not how things happened.
Who could have predicted that Herman Cain would go so far, do so well, and then fall all over himself due to his seeming past inability to keep his pepperoni to himself?
Who could have foreseen that Rick Perry, serious Non-Romney contender for Jesus, would stumble and fall all over himself, one "oops" at a time, and leave the race to Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul?
Who could predict that Santorum would look himself up on Urban Dictionary, recoil in fear, and leave the following April, leaving only three?
And then, who in the world would have imagined that Newt Gingrich -- arch-strategist, effective communicator, uber-wonk, and only "serious" Conservative in the race -- would actually start doing badly in comparison to Romney? And who would have imagined that, in spite of a number of good and solid endorsements from former Serious Contenders, and his reviling of Romney as the most dishonest person ever (Bill Clinton wept, we are told), he too would pull out, leaving only Romney and Paul?
This is to say, of course, leaving only Romney, and to say that he left that man alone against the worst case scenario: being in line to become a failed Presidential Candidate.