Like the assessment of the Democratic possibilities, this list is by no means final or definitive. Names can drop off, climb up or drop down the list as 2016 nears. It is based on those names that appear most often from a variety of sources. One of the more interesting things of note is the number of women the GOP has in the wings as compared to the Democrats who have basically Hillary Clinton. So, without further ado:
#20. Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann: She was unsuccessful in 2012 and would likely be unsuccessful in 2016, but you cannot fault the lady for trying. What I personally like about her is the fact that she can frame a discussion and become a lightning rod. You have to respect her for that. But, because she is such a lightning rod, her chances are not realistic. Looking at her electoral history, she does not win by much in her own district. Thus, moving to the national stage, it is doubtful she would perform well. It is also near impossible for a member of the House to make that jump to serious presidential aspirant. Unlike Paul Ryan, Michelle Bachmann lacks that intellectual gravitas that he enjoys. It may be unjustified, but that is simply the perception. Like Ryan, she does have a high public profile and can certainly perform well in the fundraising area. Although there are no skeletons in Bachmann's past in the traditional sense of the phrase, there are enough controversial statement/view "skeletons" that would definitely be exploited by a complicit liberal mass media. Why walk down that road again trying to explain to someone what they cannot fathom? Besides, I would like to see her take on Al Franken in his Senate reelection race in 2014. That would make for an interesting campaign.
#19. Ohio Governor John Kasich (or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker): This is sort of cheating by putting two names here. But, they are sort of the flip side of the same coin. If both continue to improve on the successes they have had in their states, then their stock may rise. Walker survived a recall effort which is an exclamation point on his constituent's acceptance of his policies. Kasich is a little more low key, but no less fiscally conservative a governor than Walker. Both will be up for reelection in 2014, so how their success is perceived will be known then. For Walker, it would be his third election in four years and whether he would be willing for another in 2016 is doubtful.
Kasich has Washington experience since he was a House member, and an important one at that. Obama recently touted the efforts of Lew as being responsible for the Clinton budget surpluses. It takes two parties to make that happen and if Lew was the supposed architect on the Democratic side, then Kasich, as House Budget Committee Chairman, is his GOP counterpart. Some recent proposals, like means-testing for Medicare benefits, was first proposed by Kasich and almost passed when he was in the House. His pro-business policies have probably done more to bring back jobs to Ohio and their unemployment rate is still below the national average. Obama claims it is because of his auto industry bail out, but there are more than auto jobs being kept or created in Ohio. But, first things first with Kasich- he has to win reelection in 2014. Although he has certainly improved his approval numbers since his first year in office, there is still work to be done and Kasich is most likely concentrating on winning in 2014 rather than looking towards 2016.
#18. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli: To many a conservative, Ken Cuccinelli sends a tingle up their leg, to paraphrase Chris Matthews. However, for the same reasons I do not believe his California counterpart, Kamala Harris, has a chance, I doubt that Cuccinelli has much of a realistic shot. Instead, he will run for Governor in 2013 to pad that conservative resume. There is certainly a plethora of past statements and views that will be portrayed by the media as being "out of the mainstream." The key to winning Virginia statewide for any conservative or Republican is to either win or perform well in the northern part of the state. If one gets outside the major population areas of Virginia, Cuccinelli should have no problem. It is doubtful that he will moderate many of his stances in order to pander to the more moderate or liberal elements in the DC suburbs. He seems more principled than that and willing to defend his views head on without concern for repercussions.
The bottom line is that a gubernatorial victory in Virginia is certainly not a done deal for Ken Cuccinelli. That would infer that jumping to the national stage vis-a-vis a run for President would be even more of a difficulty and a long-shot at that. Perhaps, if he is elected Governor in 2013 and performs well in that role, the dynamics of the 2016 race may dictate him being chosen as a vice-presidential running mate. That would seem the more likely scenario for his political future. Regardless, he is a name to be watched in the coming years within the GOP.
#17. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty: Pawlenty makes the list probably because of a reinvention or epiphany he suffered while on the campaign trail for Mitt Romney in 2012. Pawlenty, the advocate, was clearly better than Pawlenty, the candidate. It will be worth watching Pawlenty in the next two years to see if he positions himself as a viable candidate, or whether he wishes to remain on the sidelines, choosing sides, and then campaigning for someone. Unfortunately, 2012 was his most realistic chance to gain the nomination, but it was blown early in the primary season when he could not gain any traction. In a way, that is a shame because he does have some accomplishments while Governor of Minnesota which can translate onto the national stage. His educational reform efforts are worth mentioning and have been copied elsewhere in red and blue states alike. Unlike Christie in New Jersey who used a very big stick to gain some concessions from the teacher unions, Pawlenty used the carrot to great effect instead. Thus, Pawlenty may be a better negotiator than a communicator, and that may be his biggest negative in the end.
#16. Indiana Governor Mike Pence: Ordinarily, one would not include a first term Governor here, but Mike Pence left the House for the Governor of Indiana's office for a reason. One of them is aspiring to higher office. If he can continue in the mold of Mitch Daniels and solidify his conservative credentials as Governor, then his stock may rise. He actually does not have much work to do in that area, just basically maintain the status quo in Indianapolis.
What may hold Pence back is, ironically, his tenure in the House Republican leadership in the latter part of the Bush Administration. Specifically, Democrats gained majority status. Furthermore, in the Indiana 2012 gubernatorial election, Pence was the odds on favorite to win from start to finish- a shoo-in for the job. His mere three percentage point win over a relative unknown should give one pause for concern. Time will tell whether Mike Pence will develop the actionable resume to aspire to higher office. The groundwork was laid in Indiana by the previous Governor, Mitch Daniels. And after his years in Washington, he may just want to remain in Indiana. But, he is another name to watch.
#15. South Dakota Senator John Thune: This is guy is about as under the radar one can be without flying underground. He was believed to be on Mitt Romney's list as a possible vice-presidential pick. Given the debacle of that loss, a loss with Thune on the ticket could have potentially ruined him politically. Paul Ryan, who was on that losing ticket, has greater stature and a high profile in the House which allows for greater political resiliency. Thune, on the other hand, is just one among 45 Republican Senators. But, he has quietly built up a rather nice resume in the Senate.
Thune came to office by defeating Tom Daschle who, at the time, was the Senate Democratic leader. It was the first time that happened since 1952. Ideologically, there is nothing for conservatives to be concerned about regarding Thune and he is certainly to the right of Mitt Romney and John McCain (or even George W. Bush), the last three GOP nominees.
Other than his vote for TARP, which may not gain him many votes among the staunch Tea Party crowd, his record should be viewed in its totality for conservative credentials.
To a certain degree, some Democratic websites have him on their radar. There is, among some elements, a whisper campaign that Thune, because he appears "too clean," must have something to hide. This is the bizarre world of the liberal mind. Of course, one website- Democraticunderground- has started a whisper campaign that John Thune is gay. Given this trash bordering on slander, obviously certain Democrats and liberals must have some anxieties over John Thune.
#14. Former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels: Daniels was my hopeful choice in 2012. I was disappointed when he withdrew his name from consideration due to personal reasons. Those personal reasons may very well rear their ugly head again should he decide on a run in 2016. Personally, I think he missed his golden chance in 2012 and that by time 2016 rolls around, Mitch Daniels may be even older news. Of course, he could keep himself in the forefront of conservative circles through participation in think tanks and speech giving, a strategy he used after leaving the Bush White House for the conservative Hudson Institute and private industry before becoming Governor of Indiana.
Daniels has a list of accomplishments in Indiana upon which he can rely. He not only speaks the fiscally conservative line, he governed that way. Some of the social conservatives were taken aback in 2012 when he suggested a "moratorium" on the social issue debates over abortion, gay marriage and the like. Unfortunately, folks like Richard Mourdock failed to heed that advice which, in retrospect, was good advice. The criticism of him at the time was that these issues were equally important with the fiscal issues, but some portrayed Daniels as a closet moderate on the social issues when his actions and past statements indicated the opposite; socially conservative, Mitch Daniels was sound.
Although relatively high on this list, unless he gives signals of interest in the office by keeping his name in the news somehow, Mitch Daniels as a presidential candidate is going nowhere in 2016. He may have missed his opportunity in 2012. Whether his duties as President of Purdue University will provide him opportunity to stay on the national stage is questionable at best.
#13. Texas Governor Rick Perry: Now that he tried and failed miserably (real miserably) the first time out in 2012, Rick Perry might give it another try. I believe he has enough credibility with conservatives and enough credibility with moderates within the GOP that they may coalesce behind him sooner than they did around Romney. Obviously, he will need better debate preparation this time out. In reality, Perry seemed like a reluctant candidate in 2012, as if he entered the race because no one was rallying behind anyone in particular.
In retrospect, one can simply discard his 2012 candidacy as irrelevant due to its brevity. Of course, Democratic opposition will play his past debate performances as evidence he is not ready for the job. But, four years can be a learning experience. What may create reservations in the minds of some conservatives is his past comments regarding the education of illegal immigrant children. The "you don't have a heart" comment will grate on some people. But again, one has to look at the totality of his stances in the area of immigration. Overall, it may be just enough to win over some Hispanics nationally and his candidacy would keep Texas in the GOP fold.
#12. Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval: I keep seeing his name mentioned. Personally, I think many Republican and conservative websites put him on their lists because he is of Hispanic ethnicity and Republicans need to reach out to the Hispanic community, and so on and so on...you know the story. He is a former state attorney general and federal district court judge who was sought out by none other than Harry Reid. Thus far as Governor, he has held the line on taxes in his state while decreasing the size of government somewhat. His job approval rating stands at about 52% which is among the highest for many a Governor.
However, there are stances on certain issues that stand in his way. For example, he is considered pro-choice. He supports civil unions for gay couples. As Attorney General of Nevada, he opposed the Yucca Mountain site for depositing nuclear waste. And, he seems somewhat supportive of an Obama green energy/economy paradigm. And he does not appear to have any real, firm stance in the area of immigration policy. In short, Brian Sandoval may be just a tad too moderate for the likes of many a Republican primary voter. If the GOP is to somehow remake itself as some have suggested, Sandoval may be the poster boy. Time will tell. He may be a better vice presidential choice than one for the top of the ticket and it would also put Nevada into play for the GOP assuming he can maintain the high approval ratings as Governor. His term will be up in 2014. Whether he announces his intention to run for reelection will give a signal as to his presidential aspirations.
#11. Former Alaska Governor and 2008 Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin: Yes, Palin will not fade away amongst the pundit class. Most likely, she will fake a run- hold the possibility out there- just to keep her name in the news, face in the papers, and her own sense of self-relevancy. A Palin run for President is highly unlikely because even she knows that her chances of victory are very slim.
In reality, Palin is not the whack job conservative as the liberal media often portrays her. The problem, however, is not the message per se as much as it is the messenger. What many overlook is that as Governor of Alaska, Palin's approval ratings were stratospheric- at near 90% in 2007. Even after her loss on the McCain ticket, they remained well above the 50% mark. The problem was that after becoming the vice-presidential pick in 2008, everything she did and said as Governor or as a spokesperson for conservative causes was put under a magnifying glass, denigrated and digested wrongly by the liberal media. The Tea Party came along and Palin latched onto the movement. If you look at it objectively, those who portray the Tea Party as a group of racist, anti-government bigots are the same ones at the forefront of the "Palin is a whack job" scenario.
Palin is better as the conservative fly in the ointment willing to say things that candidates may be reluctant to say. Her power is better served behind the scenes than out front as a candidate. Regardless, there is still a segment of the conservative population who may believe Palin is the answer. The only problem is that segment is decreasing in numbers with each passing year.