The 2012 election is over; I’ve spent enough time wallowing in the mire of what remains. It is now time to look at who will be the front-runners for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. As we know, the GOP has a pretty deep bench. It was a little surprising that the only Republican candidate who could have attracted a wide swath of America in this year’s election was Romney…well, perhaps Pawlenty could have, but he decided that the campaign wasn’t worth a year of his life when he didn’t have any money. The rest of the field was either fatally flawed or had a pretty specific constituency that would be difficult to project to the nation as a whole.

Let’s start by looking briefly at the 2014 midterm election. The GOP, I expect, will increase their majority in the House and will gain a number of Senate seats, perhaps taking the majority. This will confuse the 2016 presidential race. A number of candidates will arise to claim that this year’s results were an aberration and those who get their opinions from talk radio will readily agree. So, there will be a portion of the Republican Party that will want to stay the course. If that’s the road that the GOP wants to travel in four years, fine. The next election will be a bigger bloodbath.

There are a number of potential candidates for the next election; since there is no obvious front-runner, we all get to try to guess who will win the nomination. Here’s my list, ranked based on the likelihood I factor of being the eventual nominee:

Jeb Bush – The national media hungers for a Clinton-Bush face-off. If Hillary runs, political elites and the media will pull out all the stops to give Jeb the nomination. Even if she doesn’t run, elites like that he is open to Hispanic issues and education. His main problem is that he may not cater to the base enough.

Mike Huckabee – Huckabee owns the social conservative base, which is obviously a significant portion of the GOP. He is incredibly likable, whether people realize it or not, that is important. He has two main problems; he likes his FoxBucks too much and the anti-tax wing of the party hates his guts.

Marco Rubio – Everyone is excited about Marco, I wonder if his name were Mark Roberts, would that still happen. He is supposed to provide the GOP with the Hispanic vote automatically. His assets are that he seems to be smart and is attractive. I can’t help wondering is there anything there. He won one statewide office, and did that in a year when my Labrador Retriever could have been elected Senator. The tricky thing for candidates is the idea of synthesizing different issues together. I have no sense if Rubio can do this.

Paul Ryan – As the Vice-Presidential nominee, Ryan was introduced to most of the American public. To the rest of us, Ryan has long been known as the architect of the GOP fiscal plan. He’s obviously a smart guy and has a lot of appeal to the tax-cut wing. If the budget mess gets kicked down the road for another four years, his chances go up. His main liability is that political parties eat Veep candidates who were in losing campaigns. This might be because they have to advocate positions that they don’t believe in (unless they go rogue).

Sarah Palin – Speaking of rogue…Sweet Sarah owns the Tea Party wing. I assume when the Democratic candidate is not named Barack Obama, this will have less value. She can get hundreds of thousands of volunteers with one Facebook announcement. Another asset is that none of the other candidates will have the stones to attack her. She has several liabilities, also. She, like Huckabee, probably doesn’t want to give up her FoxBucks. She has also said some things in the last four years that may be problematic in expanding the party.

Chris Christie
– He had a better chance of winning the nomination two weeks ago than he has now. I assume he now has a Huntsman problem; when your base is that opposed to one person, any ability to work with that person, even in a crisis, kills you among the base. His other problems are that the NRA hates him and he is from a region that is unlikely to be useful to Republicans.

Rand Paul – I assume that Rand Paul will run; heck, his dad ran a gazillion times with no chance of winning. This time, his dad ran merely to keep any other libertarian from stealing his son’s thunder. If Republicans nominate him, we will see a Mondale/McGovern/Goldwater rout, which probably hinders his chances.