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Presidency not the only prize

In the 2012 White House election, even the losers could end up winners, reaping book deals, TV contracts and other benefits from the unprecedented public attention of the race.

world Updated: Jun 12, 2011 09:45 IST

In the 2012 White House election, even the losers could end up winners, reaping book deals, TV contracts and other benefits from the unprecedented public attention of the race.

They may not get to claim the grand prize of the most powerful job on Earth, but may reap handsome rewards, just for having tossed their hats in the ring.

A former presidential candidate can go from a virtual unknowns to a household name in the blink of an eye, often with a hefty book deal and public adulation accompanying the political celebrity.

"You can get a TV spot. You can get a million-dollar contract. You can get speaking fees that are just astronomical. That's really what it's about," said Larry Sabato, a veteran political analyst who runs the Center For Politics at the University of Virginia.

Especially for lesser-known political players, months on the campaign trail can pay off big time, according to experts who say nothing burnishes a political resume quite like a presidential bid.

A good example is the upstart campaign 2008 contender Mike Huckabee, who went from being the little known former governor of Arkansas governor to fame and considerable fortune as the host of a popular cable television talk show -- a gig that he seemed unwilling to risk for the uncertainty of a repeat run in 2012.

Among those deemed to have long odds of capturing the 2012 nomination are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose campaign imploded this week with the resignations of his top campaign staff.

Just slightly better chances are given to former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani is also said to be flirting with running.

Even real estate mogul Donald Trump has been unable to completely walk away from the hunt, after announcing last month that he had decided not to run.

Some contenders will enter the race knowing they are long shots, but remembering that this time last election cycle, now-President Barack Obama was a virtually unknown senator given little chance of winning.

"All these guys look at the field and they think, really? I mean, I have as good a career as these other people who are running. Why don't I get a shot? It is a wide open race," said Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative journal, The Weekly Standard, sizing up the Republican field for Fox News.

The unsettled Republican field may gain a bit more clarity after Monday's presidential primary debate in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Seven contenders for the nomination are expected to take part, among them the early frontrunner, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, trailed by a posse of lesser-knowns hoping that a break-out performance will catapult them to the front of the queue.

Republican star Sarah Palin, still undeclared and given long odds of taking the nomination, is not expected to take part. Pundits say however she is the one candidate who doesn't need the additional exposure a debate offers.

"Two things are infinite: One is the expanding universe, and the other is media attention to Sarah Palin, who's a genius at manipulating it," said political commentator George Will -- one of many pundits to suggest that Palin's bus tour, rather than pre-campaign maneuvering, is a bid to garner even more visibility for her ubiquitous "brand."

She's another example of a politician who reaped handsome rewards after being a presidential ticket -- although for Palin, who was defeated in 2008 as John McCain's vice-presidential candidate, the ongoing public attention may be too much of a good thing.

"She has several political problems, the first of which is there's no undecided vote in this country anymore about Sarah Palin," Will told ABC.

Meanwhile, Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann, is yet another kind of long shot -- a lawmaker for whom a presidential run can greatly expand their political power base on Capitol Hill.

"She'll be thrilled if lightning strikes. But generally she's there to talk about her issues, and to become better known," said Sabato.

"Her fundraising list is going to be enormous -- it already is -- but think about how many people she's going to add" after campaigning across the country, he said.

And, he added, one can never rule out the pull of ego as a motivator for launching even the most implausible presidential campaign.

"If you're in politics, you live off the oxygen in a political room," Sabato said. "Running for the White House is climbing Mount Everest. They do it because it's there."