There's nothing quite so jarring as leaving the White House after just four years. Campaigning for his wife in 2008, Bill Clinton often joked about the job's perks-like Air Force One and hearing "Hail to the Chief" upon entering a room-and how they are then yanked away. "I was lost for two weeks when no one played music after I left office," he would say.
"We didn't know what I was going to do," Carter says of his own exit in 1981. "I found out to my amazement that we were a million dollars in debt." Selling his farm-supply business, then raising $25 million for his presidential library, became urgent tasks.
"For anybody, coming into the White House is a huge adjustment, and leaving is a huge adjustment, too," says Anita McBride, a former chief of staff to Laura Bush who helped manage her transition to private life. "Probably tougher on the president than it is on the first lady. The issues and the problems that come to his desk, they come all the time, and then all of a sudden-nothing does."
All this is to say that if Obama is booted out after one term, there will likely be a quiet period as he adjusts to life without 24/7 demands and the constant presence of a military aide with the nuclear suitcase handcuffed to his wrist. The upside: it's a chance to kick back and relax, and spend some quality time with Sasha, Malia, and dog Bo.
Where would they live? "The president's sudden celebrity, fast rise, and 2008 victory transformed pretty much every aspect of their lives, and there's no hitting the rewind button on that," says Kantor. "A lot of their old Chicago routines are out of reach now-relics of lives that don't exist anymore. They can go back to Chicago, but I'm not exactly sure they can go home again."
Annual earnings: $0
Likelihood: Fairly high, in the short term