The ballots have been cast, the votes have been counted, the campaign signs have been taken down. The election is officially over. As many winners as there were the day after Election 2006, many more were losers.

But that doesn't mean candidates who fail in their bids for public office have no life after the campaign, even if it's a different path than they planned.

"If you lose, it's OK. You can come back," said Eleanor Clift, contributing editor for Newsweek magazine and a FOX News political analyst. "You can either parlay it into another run or something else good. But it must be very difficult to be rejected by the voters."

In fact, many spend quite some time licking their wounds and recovering from their defeat.

"Some of them do go through a period of decompression if not outright depression," Clift said.

Numerous would-be politicians are fortunate enough to stay in the mix in another capacity — serving as an ambassador or even snagging a Cabinet position, for instance.

"If they've been loyal and run a good race, administrations do go back and try to get the wounded off the battlefield," Clift said.

History is rife with candidates whose presidential aspirations failed but who wound up carrying out a successful run for a job that's lower on the totem pole.

John Quincy Adams, who was president from 1824 to 1828, lost re-election to Andrew Jackson. Then, in 1830, he ran for the House of Representatives and won his Massachusetts seat, which he held for 17 years.

Former Arizona senator Barry Goldwater lost a presidential election to Lyndon Johnson in 1964 and then ran for Senate again four years later and was re-elected.

Former Minnesota senator and Jimmy Carter Vice President Walter Mondale ran for the presidency against Ronald Reagan in 1984. He lost by a landslide, but later was appointed ambassador to Japan by President Bill Clinton, and also served under that administration as a special envoy to Indonesia.

President William Howard Taft lost his bid for re-election to Woodrow Wilson in 1912. But when Warren Harding was elected after Wilson's two terms, he appointed Taft chief justice of the Supreme Court.

"Some people do run for a lesser office" if they lose a presidential election, said Keith Olson, professor of history and presidential historian at the University of Maryland.

Losing the biggest race of all doesn't necessarily mean never winning it. Take President Richard Nixon, for instance. The former U.S. representative, senator and vice president failed in his first run for the Oval Office in 1960 against John F. Kennedy, then lost the California governorship in 1962 — but was finally elected president of the United States in 1968.

Even those who don't run for president but lose a race for a seat in the House, Senate or governor's mansion often wind up staying in public office. Dan Glickman was elected in 1976 to the House of Representatives as a Kansas Democrat and served until his defeat in 1994. The following year, President Clinton went on to name him secretary of agriculture, a post Glickman kept until 2001. After a stint as director of the Institute of Politics at Harvard University, Glickman succeeded Jack Valenti as president and CEO of the Motion Picture Association of America in 2004.

Just as Glickman is now the top lobbyist for the film industry, Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum, who just lost re-election last week, is rumored to have plans to become a lobbyist in Washington too, according to Clift.

Plenty of failed candidates leave politics entirely, at least for a while. Some teach, many at Harvard University's prestigious Kennedy School of Government. Others go elsewhere. Vice President Al Gore, who lost his bid for the presidency in 2000, went on to lecture at Columbia University's School of Journalism, the University of California Los Angeles, Fisk University and Middle Tennessee State University.

Michael Dukakis, who in 1988 ran unsuccessfully for president on the Democratic ticket against George H.W. Bush, later became a professor of political science at Northeastern University and a visiting professor of public policy at UCLA.

"Teaching is a way to sort of recharge your batteries," Clift said. "And the Kennedy School is a favorite halfway house for failed candidates. They take people who have lost."

Others join think tanks, become political pundits or go to work in the private sector.

After losing the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination to John Kerry, retired Gen. Wesley Clark became a military and foreign affairs analyst at FOX News Channel. Most recently, he has joined UCLA's Burkle Center for International Relations as a senior fellow, and will teach and publish articles.

Rick Lazio, who lost his run for senator from New York to Hillary Rodham Clinton in 2000, entered the financial industry and became an executive vice president for JP Morgan Chase at the end of 2005.

When the late former Wisconsin governor and 18-year senator Gaylord Nelson finally lost a Senate race in 1980, he channeled his interest in environmental conservation — he was the primary founder of Earth Day — into his next career move, as counselor for The Wilderness Society.

And then there's Al Gore. Not only did he take several professorships after coming out of hiding post-Election 2000, but nearly six years later made waves with his startling and critically acclaimed global warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

"He's found a nice niche in the private world where he can actually feel like he's doing some good while making money," said Clift.

Speculation persists that Gore will run for president again in 2008, packaging himself as the hip, activist documentarian candidate. But that remains to be seen.

Not everyone leaves office as a result of defeat. Ex-Florida representative Joe Scarborough took to the airwaves after serving for six years on Capitol Hill and resigning amid rumors of marital infidelity. After working for a law firm, he now hosts an eponymous political news show on a major cable network.

Former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who was a professor before he was elected, also was forced to resign from Congress. He went to work for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington, D.C., and is also a FOX News Channel contributor.

On Sunday, Gingrich said he wasn't sure about what steps he may take toward running for another term in office, perhaps even as president.

"We have lots of time for personal ambition," he said of the frequently named contenders for 2008. "And I think an awful lot of this early energy is wasted, and we ought to be focusing on, how are (we) going to compete with China and India, how are (we) going to solve the problem in Iraq? I mean, real issues that need real solutions."

As for the embattled former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay? Clift predicted that in light of the ethics scandal that recently brought him down, he'd be a bit toxic for a while. Chances are, we won't be seeing much of him in the public eye any time soon.

"It can be a step up (to lose) if you conduct yourself well," Clift said. "The world is their oyster unless they really make fools of themselves. Then they're radioactive."