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Yet the former Tennessee senator already has found a new niche as a column writer and speaker arguing for classic conservative principles.

“In a constantly changing world there are still some unchanging truths. It is when our party has abandoned our principles that we have gotten into trouble,” he told the Pennsylvania Republican State Convention, arguing fealty to the Constitution is still the root of Republicanism.

Of course, it hasn’t not been completely smooth sailing for the would-be senior statesmen.

Mr. Richardson was labeled “Judas” by Clinton ally James Carville after he endorsed Sen. Barack Obama. He and Mr. Biden have figured prominently in Republican attacks on Mr. Obama because both of them have disagreed with their presumptive nominee’s initial readiness to negotiate face to face with enemy leaders such as Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

“Well, you know throughout my career, I’ve talked to a lot of bad guys. You know, I have talked to [Cuba’s Fidel] Castro. I think you don’t talk to Ahmadinejad. You talk to some of the moderate clerics,” Mr. Richardson, a former ambassador to the United Nations, said on Fox News last month at the height of the back-and-forth between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain over such meetings.

More than the others, Mr. Biden and Mr. Dodd are using their committee chairmanships - Mr. Biden leads the Foreign Relations Committee, and Mr. Dodd heads the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee - to drive the Democratic agenda and try to score points against Republicans.

Mr. Dodd has led the Senate’s work on a bill to address mortgage problems, while Mr. Biden has become chief attack dog on Mr. McCain’s foreign policy, delivering a key speech last month criticizing “Bush-McCain saber rattling” and questioning the Republican candidate’s vision of a stable Iraq by 2013.

“There’s a reason John is silent. John does have a plan - the very same plan that President Bush is pursuing: stay,” Mr. Biden said.

Maybe the roughest road of all was traveled by former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, a two-time loser this year alone. After failing to catch fire in the Democratic primary, he jumped parties, joining the Libertarians, only to lose his bid for his adopted party’s presidential nomination.