One may wind up as the first woman to lead the United States Senate. Another is young and would probably run again for president. The third may simply resume his role as a congressional maverick and retire in two years. These are among the options that await the losers in the race for the White House.
John McCain, who has wrapped up the Republican presidential nomination, will square off in November against Hillary Clinton, 60, or Barack Obama, 46, both fellow senators locked in a battle for the Democratic nomination. McCain, who turns 72 in August, would be the oldest first term US president. Clinton would be the first female president; Obama would be the first black president and one of the youngest.
"The three face very different situations, but in each case they have to show some grace if they lose -- or they will be in trouble," said James Thurber of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.
The first test will be how quickly they are able to set aside the disappointment of failing to capture the White House. It's not easy.
"Who says I've let go yet?" Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democrats' failed 2004 presidential nominee, said with a chuckle and a shrug. "It's difficult. But you have to move on. Being a senator is a great job. You can do a lot of good," Kerry said.
For the first couple of years after his 2004 defeat, Kerry kept a relatively low profile. He emerged much more in the past year or so, criticizing the handling of the U.S. war on terrorism. This year's election will be the first in which two sitting U.S. senators will face each other in the general presidential election. The last sitting senator to win the White House was John F. Kennedy in 1960.