In a few hours, the longest-running reality TV series ever will be history. The Race for the White House in 2008 has been going on for what seems like forever, bringing record ratings to the news shows and comedy programs that its candidates visit. Heck, one of the leading men even got big numbers from a prime-time infomercial.
Now that the campaign season is ending, the key figures have to be thinking about what to do when the cameras shut down and the TV lights dim. There's only one answer: Don't let that happen.
The personalities are so used to the cameras by now, and the public is so used to seeing them on TV, that there's no reason for them to fade into obscurity.
While the winning team might not have the time to waste on a TV show — there's apparently some sort of economic situation that may take up a lot of their time — here are some suggestions for the rest.
John McCain: 'Survivor'
McCain is a natural for television. A "Saturday Night Live" veteran, he's shown he can be funny and self-deprecating. On the campaign trail, he's been all about forming new alliances and trying to break up those of the opposition. He's also someone who perennially seems on the verge of losing his temper and throwing something at a rival, a certain recipe for reality TV success.
Based on his life experience, "Survivor" would be perfect for him. First, it would get him out of the country for a couple of months while everyone in the Republican Party is blaming him for everything that went wrong this election cycle. He'd find the deprivation and isolation a piece of cake, since he endured far worse as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. And he'd get to test out those scheming and persuasion skills against a new and even more bitter enemy, "Survivor" host Jeff Probst.
Sarah Palin: 'The Alaska Experiment'
OK, so this one is obvious. But "The Alaska Experiment," a series in which random people are tossed out in the frozen north to see if any will get eaten by bears, gives Palin a chance to display those conservative values in a setting that's more natural to her than a Katie Couric interview.
The show keeps Palin close to home and her family, reinforcing the family-values theme that her supporters hold so dear. Her involvement will bring in viewers and help the show's ratings, which will likely boost the money the state gets from the Discovery Channel in case that new oil pipeline never gets built.
As an added bonus, she could actually give the contestants practical advice for surviving in the wild. Who better to teach the art of hunting moose from a helicopter than Alaska's most famous huntress?
Barack Obama: 'American Idol'
If Obama loses, he'll undoubtedly be depressed and in need of cheering up. What better way than to channel his inner rock star before an audience of young people that have been his biggest fans on the campaign trail?
He's already run a campaign filled with performances in front of cheering throngs, so he should be a natural at this. Plus, if he's feeling down, this will give him a weekly conversation with Ms. Positivity, Paula Abdul.
It would also be the ultimate challenge for Simon Cowell to come up with criticisms that would make Obama lose his cool. The candidate's been called a socialist and an elitist, been accused of being friends with terrorists, and been attacked with far worse accusations every day from assorted radio hosts and political figures. Simon will have to do a lot better than the usual "as bad as a Portuguese nightclub act" to make a dent in the Obama poker face.
Joe Biden: 'The Mole'
Biden is an experienced senator with a strong foreign-policy background, and he may be helping Obama pull in certain voting segments. But Biden also likes to talk, and every time he opens his mouth, he seems to give the Republicans something to use in their campaign ads. His comments that Obama would surely be tested by world leaders have become a GOP advertising staple, and he also told a cheering crowd that Hillary Clinton would have been a better vice-presidential pick than he would.
So whose side is he really on? Bring "The Mole" back to the airwaves, let newsman Anderson Cooper return as host, and we'll see if Biden's just a politician who occasionally says dumb things, or if he's really a Republican plant set to work against the ticket.
However, if Biden turns it down, former Democratic vice-presidential candidate turned Republican convention speaker Joe Lieberman has apparently agreed to serve in the title role.
Joe the Plumber: 'Deal or No Deal?'
Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher, the Ohio plumber with strong opinions about the tax code, has become a political phenomenon over the past month. He's been on the air more often than "30 Rock" promos. All good things have to come to an end, however, and Wurzelbacher is just hours away from returning to life in plumbing, figuring out how to pay off his tax lien and make enough money to be affected by an Obama win.
Howie Mandel can help.
Since the presidential campaigns bogged down over Joe the Plumber's interpretation of which candidate was making him a better offer, why not put Joe's deal-making abilities to the test? Get him on this show, and see how The Plumber does against The Banker. In a best-case scenario, he wins enough money that he really would benefit from the McCain tax plan.
Bill and Hillary Clinton: 'The Amazing Race'
If the Democrats win, the Obama campaign doesn't seem to be hoping the Clintons hang around to bother him during his inauguration.
And if they lose, nobody wants them on TV talking about how different things could have been if Hillary was on the ticket. Either way the best thing for everyone is for them to leave town for awhile.
And let's be honest, is there any political couple that people would rather see on "The Amazing Race" than the Clintons?
Bill could charm his way out of any sticky situation, while Hillary answers the phone whenever it rings at 3 a.m. with a new challenge.
But how would they react if some of the fellow competitors were attractive young women, or members of the vast right-wing conspiracy?
George W. Bush: 'The Real World'
Might as well. That's where he's headed anyway.
Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.