Losing Presidential nominees usually go on to a future public career, with a few exceptions.
William Jennings Bryan, three time nominee in 1896, 1900, and 1908, went on to become Secretary of State for two years under President Woodrow Wilson.
Alton B Parker, the losing candidate in 1904, went on to become temporary chairman and keynote speaker at the 1912 Democratic National Convention.
Charles Evans Hughes, the losing nominee in 1916, went on to become Secretary of State under Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court under Presidents Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
James Cox, the losing nominee in 1920, built up a newspaper empire, Cox Enterprises, which would become very influential in the world of journalism, and still is, as the publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Palm Beach Post, as well as cable television and internet enterprises under his heirs.
John W. Davis, the losing 1924 nominee, had a distinguished career as a lawyer who argued cases before the Supreme Court, including being in the losing side of the famous school integration case, Brown V. Board Of Education Of Topeka, Kansas in 1954, and the Youngstown Steel Case of 1952, ruling against President Truman’s seizure of the steel mills during the Korean War. He was on the side opposing school integration and Presidential power, being a true Jeffersonian conservative throughout his life.
Alfred E. Smith, the 1928 losing nominee, became head of the corporation which built the Empire State Building in 1931, and was an active opponent of Franklin D.Roosevelt and his New Deal.
Al Landon, the losing 1936 nominee, spoke up on foreign policy issues as World War II came on, but spent his life in the oil industry, playing a very limited role in public life after the war.
Wendell Willkie, the losing 1940 nominee, proceeded to write a book about his vision of the postwar world, and was thinking of running again in 1944, but died early in that year.
Thomas E. Dewey, the losing nominee in 1944 and 1948, continued to serve as Governor of New York, and was a power player in the Republican Party after his time in office.
Adlai Stevenson, the 1952 and 1956 losing nominee, went on to serve as United Nations Ambassador under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
Barry Goldwater, the losing 1964 nominee, went back to the US Senate, and served three more terms in office.
Hubert Humphrey, the losing 1968 nominee, went back to the Senate and served seven more years in that body.
George McGovern, the losing 1972 nominee, went on to serve eight more years in the US Senate, and kept active in work for the United Nations in various agencies.
Walter Mondale, the losing nominee in 1984, went on to serve as Ambassador to Japan under President Bill Clinton.
Michael Dukakis, the losing nominee in 1988, went back to two more years as Governor of Massachusetts, and also has served as a professor at various institutions, including Northeastern University and Florida Atlantic University.
Bob Dole, the losing 1996 nominee, has engaged in much public activity, including fighting hunger with fellow former nominee George McGovern, and is seen as an elder statesman who is greatly respected.
Al Gore, the losing 2000 nominee, went on to become an advocate for action on climate change and global warming, and also created the cable channel called CURRENT.
John Kerry, the losing 2004 nominee, has continued his distinguished career in the Senate, and may be tapped to join President Obama’s cabinet as Secretary of State or Secretary of Defense.
John McCain, the losing 2008 nominee, has continued his career in the Senate, being last reelected to a six year term in 2010.
The question is what, if any role, Mitt Romney will have in public life, with no hint at this point that he intends any, even after his White House meeting this week with President Barack Obama.