Bill Roth rode into history as an American institution, a five-term Republican senator who gave the country the Roth IRA and the famous tax cut people in Delaware call Roth-Kemp.
Beforehand, though, Roth lost a race for lieutenant governor. No doubt it felt like the end of the world at the time, but it turned out to be more like missing a cutoff for investing with Bernie Madoff.
Matt Denn did get to be the Democratic lieutenant governor, sprinting there from a single term as insurance commissioner. Both offices came after a loss years earlier for state senator.
There went that great legislative pension, but who knows where Denn would be today with it? The General Assembly is often a final resting place, where statewide ambitions go to die.
Not all political defeats are mortal. Comebacks, thy patron saint is Abraham Lincoln.
Various returns could be in the works in the 2010 election. It would be nothing new.
Amid all the celebrated streaks, like the tie for 12 statewide victories by Tom Carper for the Democrats and Mike Castle for the Republicans, there is also the example of Cale Boggs.
A Republican congressman, governor and senator, Boggs could not get himself elected to a Kent County row office.
If at first you do not succeed, you may be Karen Weldin Stewart. She made it to insurance commissioner on her third try, after losing a general election and a Democratic primary.
The gargantuan Democratic tide in 2008 could have brought in Stewart, or maybe the voters got so used to seeing her name on the ballot, they thought she was the incumbent. People do not keep track of insurance commissioners the way they do, say, governor.
The ballot next year could include several politicians looking for a second chance.
For example, there is John Carney. The former lieutenant governor is lined up to be the Democratic candidate for the seat Mike Castle, the Republican congressman, is leaving to run for the Senate.
If Carney had not lost the primary for governor last year to Jack Markell, he could be the one dealing with incredibly shrinking budgets, swine flu and Republican legislators complaining that the governor does not "friend" them.
By contrast, Carney's campaign this time is so nonchalant, he might as well be picking up the congressional seat from a remainder bin. After nine terms of Castle, the Republicans are flat-footed, as though they forgot the seat did not belong to them. Somebody has to run for it.
The Republicans would not mind recycling a couple of statewide candidates of their own.
The congressional race could be Rebound Central with Carney running for the Democrats and the Republicans trying to get Charlie Copeland to take him on. Copeland tried for lieutenant governor in 2008 and left the state Senate to do it.
So far, though, Copeland is playing hard to get. "I give it thought all the time," he said.
The Republicans expect to have Ferris Wharton make his second bid for attorney general. After losing to Beau Biden in 2006, Wharton is waiting until Biden officially comes out as the Democratic candidate for the Senate. Wharton is seeking the office, not a rematch.
Another also-ran from the 2008 statewide ballot is also running. John Brady, who took a shot at insurance commissioner, was midway through a term as the Sussex County recorder of deeds at the time. He plans to run for re-election.
Brady used to be a Republican, but he switched to Democrat after his statewide campaign. It does not seem to have kicked up a fuss, at least not in Sussex County, where the voters already sent state Rep. John Atkins back to Dover after he morphed from a Republican to a Democrat.
Brady probably should be fine. Atkins was arrested in between changing parties. All Brady did was lose an election.