LET'S FACE IT, "Republican mayoral candidate in Philadelphia" ranks right up there with sanitation worker and high-school cafeteria chef on the list of the world's most thankless jobs.

Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a cartoonish margin, which is part of the reason why it's been nearly two decades since the city has witnessed a legitimately suspenseful mayoral race.

Melissa Murray Bailey knew as much, yet she still volunteered to be the Republican mayoral candidate - even though, at 36, she had a thriving career with an international company.

If that didn't seem crazy enough, Bailey refused to be overlooked by voters, the media and Democratic mayoral candidate Jim Kenney.

She held her own at countless forums and debates, urging people to at least consider the possibility of electing a Republican mayor for the first time since 1947.

Her pitch wasn't successful - Kenney won yesterday's election in a landslide - but local pols were impressed enough with her performance to wonder: What's next for Bailey?

She demurred last night, but in the short term she's likely to return to her position as president of the Americas division of Universum Global, a Sweden-based branding company.

Joe DeFelice, executive director of the Republican City Committee, suggested that politics could still be in Bailey's future.

"She's the kind of person we'd like to grow the party around," he said. "She puts a different face on what people expect Republicans to look like."

Bailey changed her registration from Democrat to Republican when she decided to pursue the nomination. But she represented a demographic that the city is trying sorely to keep: a young parent who wants to stay in Philly, but who easily could move to another big city that offers better jobs and educational opportunities.

"Melissa would be a perfect face for us going forward," DeFelice said. "She showed tremendous poise. She was inexperienced in politics, but no one could ever say that she's not qualified or not smart."

Former District Attorney - and recent Democratic mayoral candidate - Lynne Abraham is among Bailey's biggest fans.

"I love Melissa Murray Bailey! She was a terrific, bright, energetic person with lots of fresh ideas," Abraham said at Famous 4th Street Deli yesterday morning.

"She was poised, she was bright, she was fun to be with. . . . She is a wonderful resource for Philadelphia, and frankly it wouldn't surprise me if somebody offered her a position in the city."

On Twitter: @dgambacorta