The obvious first order of business this year will be to maintain the House and win the Senate. With that out of the way, all political attention will then turn to 2016 and the open presidential race. I've been down this road before, but its always fun to handicap the list of potential candidates occasionally. The names mentioned will be in alphabetical order, not in order of my personal preference.
1. Jeb Bush- former Governor of Florida. Hailing from a key swing state that the GOP needs to win, assuming losses elsewhere, Jeb Bush has been mentioned in some quarters as a viable candidate. He left Tallahassee a fairly popular man, can tap a national network of donors and has made inroads with the Hispanic voters. But the question is whether he wants to run and, if so, how much his heart will be in it. Regarding that Hispanic angle, although the fastest growing demographic in the electorate, their importance in overall electoral dynamics is way overblown. A candidate does not need to win the Hispanic vote outright, just make headway with Hispanics in certain states. Personally, I am with Barbara Bush on this one: in a country of over 300 million people, can't we find someone whose last name is NOT Bush or Clinton? I also cannot see him surviving the early very conservative primary states. Personal choice- NO!
2. Chris Christie- New Jersey Governor. Assuming he can overcome the overblown baggage of the George Washington Bridge lane closure non-scandal, as a resident of New Jersey I can safely say that he has hardly ushered in an era of conservative fiscal constraint. Some of that is due to a Democratic legislature and some to a meddlesome liberal state supreme court. Still, he is hardly the godsend some make him to be. I have said it before and will say it again: Chris Christie may be a fine Republican for the state of New Jersey, but he would make a terrible Republican president or candidate. Personal choice- Nyet!
3. Ted Cruz- Texas Senator. I know several people here at Redstate are enamored with Ted Cruz. Don't count me among them. I like him like a person likes the occasional gadfly to stir up things. He is certainly one of the more conservative members of the Senate, but quite frankly he sometimes embarrasses. For example, his much vaunted filibuster against a bill that he supported left me scratching my head. He has become somewhat of a pariah to the Establishment Republicans (not a bad thing) but to win the White House, you will need them also. I think he has burnt too many bridges that cannot be mended. Personal choice- UNDECIDED BUT WOULD SUPPORT IF I REALLY, REALLY HAD TO.
4. Mike Huckabee- former Governor of Arkansas. On the plus side, he has been out of organized politics so he can run as a pseudo-outsider. His previous run has vetted him so everyone knows who he is and what he stands for. But, the GOP is a Southern-facing party at this point and nominating a Southerner will not help nationwide. Additionally, he may be liked by some fence sitters (not enough to help him) and social conservatives, but not by fiscal conservatives. In 2016, fiscal issues are likely to be the main area of focus and that does not bode well for Huckabee. Personal choice- Nein!
5. John Kasich- Governor of Ohio. Assuming he wins reelection, we will have to wait and see how he governs over the next two years. Too many conservatives have too many questions about him. Unfortunately, most of that mistrust stems from Medicaid expansion. He is also noted for his verbal miscues at times and that would provide ample fodder for Democratic and liberal attacks. On the plus side, he is from Ohio and would likely deliver that state to the GOP, but whether he can play in Florida, North Carolina and Colorado is another story. Personal choice- I don't think so!
6. Susana Martinez- Governor of New Mexico. Martinez would bring an interesting life story and she has had electoral success in a blue state albeit one with only 5 electoral votes. Additionally, she would bring ethnic diversity to the table removing that line from the expected Democratic attacks along with the "war on women" meme. Unfortunately, that life story has kept her off the national stage and she is not exactly a darling of conservatives. Thus, she would likely not make it through the primaries unscathed. Instead, she would make an intriguing choice for Vice-President...if she wants even that. Personal choice- NOT President; YES for Vice President.
7. Rand Paul- Senator from Kentucky. Rand Paul rode into office on the strength of the Tea Party and he has never disavowed their agenda of smaller, leaner government. He has appeal with the libertarian wing of the party. He has also, at times, stood up to the Establishment GOP. Unlike Ted Cruz, Rand Paul's noted filibuster was much better received. And he has built up a strong national fundraising network. The major problem with him is that he may be a tad too dovish in international affairs for some Republican voters, especially those in states with a large military population. Still, you have to respect the man for walking into a liberal lion's den- Berkeley- and giving a speech that was surprisingly well-received. Personal choice- BEARS WATCHING/ GENUINELY UNDECIDED
8. Rob Portman- Senator from Ohio. Like Kasich, he represents a swing state and would most likely deliver Ohio to the GOP. On the plus side for some, he favors same sex marriage. On the minus side for even more, he favors same sex marriage. Overcoming that in states like Texas and South Carolina will be difficult. Also on the plus side, he has vast government experience. But on the minus side, that vast government experience makes him appear an insider. Personal choice- NOPE!
9. Mitt Romney- 2012 candidate and former Massachusetts Governor. There is talk in some quarters that he may be a viable candidate in 2016. Please say it isn't so! We've been there and done that. Romney should be rehearsing the words of LBJ circa 1968 when he turned down a run for the presidency. Personal choice- PLEASE NO!
10. Marco Rubio- Senator from Florida. His ability to deliver the Hispanic vote is vastly over-rated. Being Cuban-American, the increase in the Latino vote nationally is non-Cuban. And there has always been a tension between other Latino groups and Cubans. Could he deliver Florida? Remember that he won election in a 3-way race with less than 50% of the vote, so even that is in doubt. He was once the darling of the GOP and a rising star. It is possible that star peaked way too soon. And his recent stances on immigration have hardly endeared him to conservatives who are not sold on him yet in this area. Personal choice- He would be my SECOND CHOICE and I have not given up on him just yet.
11. Paul Ryan- Congressman from Wisconsin. Ryan was Romney's running mate in 2012, so he has national exposure. He is noted for his conservative record, but many websites rank him more as a moderate. And I really cannot see him at the top of the ticket having seen him at the #2 spot on the ticket- not exactly electrifying on the campaign trail. You have to give him one thing though- he DOES have ideas. I believe he can better serve the GOP in the House than in the White House. And considering that he could not deliver his home district to Romney in 2012 says something also. Personal choice- STAY WHERE YOU ARE (or a cabinet position of importance).
12. Rick Santorum- former Senator from Pennsylvania. He hung in there the longest against Romney in 2012. Whether he should have is another story. He has been keeping a relatively high profile through the talk show circuit. Within the GOP, he is the go-to guy among social conservatives and is unafraid to voice his views. But, he will be considered a has-been by 2016. Personal choice- HIS TIME HAS PASSED; FADE AWAY POLITELY.
13. Scott Walker- Wisconsin Governor. Here is a governor who won a Midwestern state that Obama carried twice. His conservative credentials can be described as heroic. He has the honor of being the only politician in history to survive a recall election. In fact, he emerged stronger after the recall. Of course, he will have to win reelection this year for him to be more seriously considered in 2016. Despite the recent false scandals bordering on slander against him, that should be long forgotten by 2016. Perhaps the biggest knock on him is the fact that he is considered bland, almost a Tim Pawlenty clone. Democrats will make fun of him because he lacks a college degree, but Obama was an alleged constitutional scholar educated in the Ivy League and look how he screwed things up. Personal choice- At this point in time, HE IS MY #1 CHOICE.
Side note: It is possible other contenders can emerge for the GOP in the next year. But the fact that there are 13 listed here suggests that the Republican bench is certainly way deeper than the Democratic bench which consists of Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden and possibly Elizabeth (Wicked Witch of the North) Warren. The remainder are claymation governors or unknowns. One possibility- Brian Schweitzer- managed to offend Southerners and gays all in one statement. Guess that "homesy, folksy" act only goes so far.
I accidentally left Rick Perry off this list. Yes, he is rehabilitating his image after 2012's late entry into the race. He has been vocal in response to the recent border situation, but that will be solved by 2016...hopefully. Regardless, I think he is a person to be watched as this cycle progresses. Personal choice- UNDECIDED right now.