Oscar White House Goes to . . .”
What do you call the person who finishes last in their medical school class? Answer: “Doctor.”
If Mitt Romney wins today’s election, he is, of course, President.
If he loses?
Like other runners-up (Minnesota’s Walter Mondale, Al Gore, John McCain, etc.), he is destined to forever and always be known as “Failed Presidential nominee Mitt Romney,” “Unsuccessful Candidate Mitt Romney,” etc.
Somehow, referring that way to a politician who won a couple dozen primaries, ousted dozens of party rivals, and ultimately garnered millions of votes (and billions(?) in campaign contributions) on the way to becoming a finalist for U.S. President seems a little . . . harsh.
Interestingly, the Oscars dealt with this little semantics problem years ago.
Once upon a time, Academy award presenters trilled, “The winner is . . . !!”
The inference was that the runners-up were all losers, even if they were nominated alongside the likes of Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson, etc.
Now, of course, presenters all uniformly intone, “and the Oscar goes to . . . “
Losing the Battle, Winning the War?
The exception to the above: when you truly get shellacked — like George McGovern (1972), Jimmy Carter (1980), and Walter Mondale (1984) — the “loser” label seems more appropriate.
Too, there is a different cast to an incumbent who’s turned out vs. a challenger who comes up short: Hoover didn’t just lose to FDR; arguably, he was repudiated.
It’s also the case that, historically, some Presidential races come to been seen as stepping-stones to victorious races later on.
Republican Barry Goldwater’s 1964 loss — which stirred his party’s idealogues and ultimately led to Ronald Reagan’s ascension 16 years later — is a good example of that.
P.S.: the most famous ripostes from the 1964 race: Goldwater’s refrain, “in your heart, you know he’s right,” was answered by LBJ’s “in your guts, you know he’s nuts.”