by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
One of the many failings of the 2016 presidential field was candidates who had ascended to the national level (like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee) and seemed to have decided that they could make a better living as national candidates, even non-viable ones taking up space on a crowded stage, than by doing the hard work of going back to the states they came from and rebuilding their political networks and political standing there. That’s one of the criticisms I had for John Kasich recently as well, for passing on a Senate run in Ohio this year.
By contrast, some unsuccessful national candidates returned to the garden. Marco Rubio took a lot of mockery for reversing his pledge to leave the Senate, but he ended up holding a seat that Republicans had worried about losing, and drew some 200,000 more votes than Donald Trump in November 2016 in the process. …
… The extreme example, of course, is John Quincy Adams, who after a politically disastrous and mostly ineffective tenure as president, went back to the House of Representatives, where he had not only a long political second act, but also a greater impact on the nation (as an anti-slavery crusader, a stance that was not yet safe to take in national politics in the 1830s and 1840s) than he had as president.
There is, of course, much to be said for politicians going back to the plow, leaving public life for the private sector and making room for the next generation. But if you have the talent and commitment for public service, you can do more good for your principles by taking a step back down closer to the people.