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Failed VP Candidates Take Varied Trajectories

You could call them the “also-ran-withs.”

Failed vice presidential candidates are in a unique position in American politics — nationally known, yet easily forgotten — a minor character in a drama that everyone watched.

Some never live down their ties to the failed arguments of their ticketmates. Others use it as a springboard to greater things.

Last week saw two recent contenders — Sarah Palin and John Edwards — in very different circumstances. One took her potential presidential ambitions on tour; the other found he may go on trial.

Here’s what has happened to some other vice presidential contenders:

Joe Lieberman (D): The Senator from Connecticut had a backup plan, running both as Al Gore’s VP pick and for re-election to his Senate seat in 2000. His own 2004 presidential bid never gained Joe-mentum, and he had fallen out of favor with Democrats by 2006. Two years later, he nearly became Republican Sen. John McCain’s running mate. Now an Independent, he won’t seek re-election in 2012.

Jack Kemp (R): A former NFL quarterback, Kemp served in the House for 18 years before running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. He lost, but he went on to serve as Housing and Urban Development secretary under President George H.W. Bush. In 1996, he was tapped by former failed VP Bob Dole. Afterward, Kemp was a regular on the rubber-chicken circuit and wrote a syndicated column, among other elder statesmen duties.

Earl Warren (R): Warren had a good streak going for a while. He won three elections for district attorney, a race for California attorney general and two terms as governor before the 1948 upset when Thomas Dewey lost the presidency. Still governor, he considered running for president but ended up being appointed chief justice of the United States and heading the commission that looked into President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D): As a young assistant secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt hoped to follow in his cousin Teddy’s footsteps by running for vice president at an even younger age. After the 1920 presidential ticket led by James Cox lost by a wide margin, FDR went back to practicing law and then became paralyzed after an illness. After years in the political wilderness, he mounted a comeback first as governor of New York and then won four terms as president.

William E. Miller (R): A prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, district attorney, Congressman and Republican National Committee chairman, Miller was something of a surprise pick for Barry Goldwater in 1964. After a massive defeat, he returned to New York to practice law. He later appeared in a TV ad for American Express that spoofed his relative anonymity, asking, “Do you know me?”

Correction: June 6, 2011

The original article incorrectly stated the timing of Earl Warren’s gubernatorial elections. He did not win his third term as California governor until after he ran for vice president.