- Take time to reflect. A scant two years after losing the tight 1960 presidential race, Richard Nixon lost again, this time in a race for governor. Only after waiting four years did he re-emerge as “the New Nixon” and win the presidency.
- Keep doing a good job. Decades after his defeat, 1972 presidential loser George McGovern became an ambassador to the United Nations’ food and agriculture program, planning to deliver food to 500 million malnourished people. Then, he joined 1996 presidential contender Bob Dole in proposing that the U.N. provide school lunches to every hungry child in the world.
- Appreciate what you’ve got. Losing gives you freedom and family time that you forfeit if you win. Alfred Landon, a Kansas governor who lost to FDR, showed no signs of missing politics and enjoyed riding his horse alone.
And if you lose big, well, at least you lived big. In a presidential election, McGovern notes wryly, you can lose in a landslide and still have millions of backers.
- Be gracious in defeat. Some people urged Sen. Robert Dole to become a “hatchet man” during President Clinton’s second term, sabotaging Clinton’s initiatives in Congress. “I couldn’t see the point,” Dole says.
- Avoid shoulda’/woulda’/coulda’. “One of the virtues of getting whomped like I did is that there is less second-guessing,” notes Walter Mondale, who carried only Minnesota and Washington, D.C., in 1984.
- Change focus. Ohio newspaper publisher James Cox, who lost to Warren Harding in 1920, refused to give in to brooding and went back to publishing.
- Let it go. “I don’t live in the past,” says McGovern. “You move on; you need to do that.”
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