Whatever happens on Nov. 6, the U.S. unemployment rolls are going to have one new member next year. Sure, the election loser could sit on some corporate boards, collect speaking fees, or work on his memoirs. But here are a few ideas on how Barack Obama or Mitt Romney could keep busy and make a difference… even if it’s not in the White House.
JOBS FOR ROMNEY
Romney has made his successful stewardship of the Salt Lake City Olympics a centerpiece of his campaign, running campaign ads featuring former Olympians and rarely letting a speech go by without mentioning his role in saving the 2002 games, which were running behind schedule, overbudget, and mired by corruption scandals when he took over as CEO. He's even written a book about the experience. So why not turn it into a full-time gig?
Even as revenues have grown, the International Olympic Committee has been plagued for years by allegations of corruption and vote-buying among its board members, criticized for its cozy ties to authoritarian governments and political insensitivity. Current President Jacques Rogge is required by term limits to step down in 2013. Yes, the IOC board traditionally elects the president from among its own ranks, but perhaps they might make an exception to bring in a leader with an international profile, a squeaky-clean reputation, and experience in managing international sporting events.
Downsides? Romney may have ruffled some feathers with his controversial comments about the London Olympics in July, and things might get awkward with 2014 Winter Games host/"No.1 geopolitical foe" Russia, but these don't seem like insurmountable obstacles. And hey, we know his French is pretty good.
Green Energy Czar
Yes, it certainly seems an unlikely move from the candidate who used the Oct. 3 debate to attack Obama for wasting $90 billion on funding for green energy startups. But as Romney well knows from his business career, not every investment is going to pay off. If Obama were interested in finding a way to bring his former opponent into the fold -- something he's done before -- he could put the former management consultant to work overseeing the government's green investments, separating the game changers from the potential Solyndras.
This wouldn't be entirely unprecedented for Romney, who was in favor of measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions before he was against them. His Massachusetts government put in place some of the country's first statewide restrictions on carbon emissions and in 2005, he helped negotiate a nine-state regional agreement on emissions reductions. Romney has certainly shown a penchant for reinvention over the years. It might not be too late for him to go back to his roots and help make the green economy a reality.
Ambassador to Israel
Another outside-the-box idea for how a second-term Obama administration could make use of Romney. For all the talk of who-threw-whom under the bus, there aren't that many differences between the two men on substantive policy toward Israel. Both favor continuing heavy military aid to the Jewish state, both are committed -- at least in public -- to negotiating a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and both favor a mix of sanctions and negotiations with Iran without ruling out the possibility of military action.
But tone and personal connections do matter in diplomacy. Obama and Netanyahu have had a frosty relationship from the start, while Romney and the Israeli prime minister are old friends who share more than a few allies and donors. Preventing a war in the Middle East in the next four years may require reigning in the hawkish Israeli leader, who looks like a lock for re-election. But such a message might be more effective if delivered by someone Netanyahu trusts.
Revamp Mormon Aid
Former U.S. presidents and presidential candidates have often devoted their time to aid work, and Romney clearly has thoughts on how international aid can be made more effective. But rather than starting his own foundation, why not work with a group he's already close to: the Church of Latter-Day Saints?
Though people generally associate Mormon missionaries with proselytizing, many devote their missions to humanitarian work, and the church has been involved in activities including disaster relief, immunization drives, and clean-water projects in 179 countries. The church touts the fact that it has donated more than $1 billion to humanitarian causes since 1985 -- though this is actually not that high considering that it may take in as much as $8 billion in tithing every year.
Romney -- a rather sizeable donor to the church in his own right -- could push to increase that number, encourage more young Mormons to do humanitarian work on their missions, and implement some of the ideas about integrating private sector development into foreign aid that he shared in his Clinton Global Initiative speech this year -- a message to which the business-minded LDS church would surely be receptive. And of course, some more good press for the oft-misunderstood church could only help the next member to run for office.
Romney was runner-up in the GOP primary in 2008. If he's runner-up in the general election this year, it only means he got one step closer to the White House. Yes, he didn't exactly ignite the passions of the GOP base this year, but with another four years to shake the Etch-a-Sketch, he might just find the right formula. After all, he won't have to run against Obama again. And if his dire predictions about what's in store for the country if the president is reelected turn out to be correct, 2016 should be a cakewalk.