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During the late '90s, Village Voice Media, where I toiled, was sold to a vulture capital group that included Goldman Sachs. The buyers didn't care about the newspapers (aka "the product") or the people (aka "the head count"). What mattered was the "exit strategy" -- how many years it would take until the company could be "flipped" to maximize ROI (aka "return on investment").

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For Republican presidential hopefuls -- most of whom believe not only that corporations are people but also that certain people (aka themselves) are corporations -- a finely-honed exit strategy can be even more important than winning.

Herman Cain is only the latest contestant in an epic Exit-Dancing-With-the-Tsars show. His strategy was classic GOP: fail to take personal responsibility for your own alleged infidelities; blame the disclosure of those infidelities on the liberal media; whine about the personal pain of hearing yourself criticized; pray a lot; promise that you'll never give up; launch a Website to seek contributions; promote your book during well-paid speaking engagements.

Last spring, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee preemptively bowed out of the race with a"spiritual" decision based on his relationship with Jesus Christ, a well known GOP operative. Not mentioned were Huck's plans to burnish his brand via his lucrative Fox TV talk show, his syndicated radio program and, perhaps most important, his cartoons.

Donald Trump was next, departing the fray when NBC renewed his reality TV series The Apprentice. (That's the one where the real estate mogul has a blast telling contestants "You're fired!" -- thereby denying them a chance to fashion their own exit strategies.) Trump made it clear that although he could win the presidency without mussing a hair, he simply was "not ready to leave the private sector."

After toying with the affections of her fans for months, Sarah Palin signaled her decision not to run with the rhetorical question, "Does a title shackle a person?" The answer: "For someone like me, maverick, you know, I do go rogue." Nuff said.

Earlier this week we learned that Rick Perry's camp may be laying the groundwork for a novel withdrawal strategy. An article in Vanity Fair reports that it's "quietly circulating in Austin" that Perry's shocking cluelessness and bizarre behavior are traceable back to his aching back.

With the Iowa caucuses a mere four weeks away, we checked in on the remaining candidates' exit strategies.

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Congressman Ron Paul will pull out of politics entirely. Since his son Rand is also a member of Congress, Ron will become the first politician ever to leave public life so he can spend less time with his family.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann will exit stage Right with a plan so far outside the box as to be back in the box. The Bach-woman will become a spokesperson for gay marriage, by which she means gay people marrying members of the opposite sex. In addition, she will devote as much as a few minutes per day to the 28 kids she raised.

Erstwhile Pennsylvania governor Rick Santorum will lock himself in a room and not emerge until he has completed the book he's been researching and writing for decades. Working title: Family Values and Homophobia: Two Sides of the Same Coin.

Newt Gingrich is riding high in the polls, but the man Paul Krugman called "a stupid man's idea of what a smart person sounds like" knows deep in his psyche that self-combustion is possible at any moment. Cleverly, the former House Speaker has been holding a series of secret powwows with the leaders of nearby galaxies. Should the president thing not work out, Newt will seamlessly transcend earthly endeavors so he can focus on transforming the universe.

Mitt Romney never imagined he'd need an exit strategy, but in the wake of his disastrous Fox News interview, he got busy preparing a powerful pivot. The Mittster will wax philosophical about the paramount importance of doing what you love, and announce a return to his life's calling -- running a job-killing venture capital enterprise with the very best exit strategies in the business.

I'm not sure there's a single thread that links the GOPers' various exit strategies, but something Gingrich let slip before his meeting with Donald Trump points to a common purpose. The obsequious pilgrimages to the Donald by candidate after candidate, Newt said, aren't about seeking an endorsement or garnering financial support. What the exiters-to-be covet is advice on how to segue from a presidential contest to a successful reality TV show.

michael sigman

Michael Sigman

Republished with the author's permission from Huffington Post.