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Updated on August 27, 2013

This article was originally posted the day after the 2012 election and is projections based on that time. It will likely be updated as we get closer to the 2016 election and any updates will be noted below. It is impossible to know what the Republican Party will be like in four years. We don't know if the party will be looking for a moderate candidate or a hardcore conservative. We do not know whether the Tea Party will still be relevant at that point. We do not know if Republican voters will take Libertarian or socially conservative positions. These predictions are based on speculation and will include updates that reflect any changes.


Chris Christie

Why Him?: Christie was practically begged to run in 2012, but declined. He did use the opportunity to increase his national profile. As a moderate Republican and Governor from the state of New Jersey, he could be very competitive in a general election. He also is very charismatic and likeable.

Primary Chances: Christie could be the Republican establishment choice and his moderate views and geographical advantage could be enough to sell him to the majority of Republican voters. As of now he is the candidate to beat.

General Election Chances: Christie could win New Jersey for the Republicans and might be able to expand the map in other ways as well, as long as he can keep from being painted too far right in the primaries. His brash personality could rub some the wrong way. Some criticize him for his weight, but few would admit to not voting for somebody for being "too fat." He would probably be competitive with any Democratic candidate.

Marco Rubio

Why Him?: A popular Tea Party favorite senator from Florida, Rubio has the advantage of being from a swing state and, being Cuban, if he were to win he would be the first Hispanic nominee from any party.

Primary Chances: Rubio may seem better on paper than in reality. In order to win the Republican Primary he will have to deal with the immigration issue, which could have evolved significantly since then. Also, Tea Party candidates have typically been bad news in senate races. Rubio has a history of saying controversial things.

General Election Chances: Theoretically, Rubio would help the GOP with the Hispanic vote, but not if he takes the same stances on issues that GOP candidates have in the primaries. It is unlikely he could survive the primaries as a strong general election candidate.

Bobby Jindal

Why Him?: Back in 2008 Jindal was anointed as the Republican Party's answer to Obama. His time on the national stage has not gone well, but the Louisiana Governor still might run in 2016. He has been making a number of moves to indicate he is interested.

Primary Chances: Jindal is a lot like Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota Governor that exited the 2012 race early. He seems like a nice guy but a bit too milquetoast. He would likely be overshadowed by more charismatic candidates.

General Election Chances: Being from the south is not a plus for a Republican in the General Election. Jindal might have suffered from a lack of charisma before, but he is making moves to try and become competitive. He started off on this list as a wild card and has rocketed to being a frontrunner.


Jeb Bush

Why Him?: At first I dismissed Jeb Bush because it just didn't seem like he wanted to run. Recent events have made it seem like he is interested. The party is flipping for him because there is no clear frontrunner.

Primary Chances: A big question mark here. If it wasn't for his brother than Bush would be the frontrunner. The easiest way to attack him would be to attack the Bush administration but can Republicans do that? He is a smart politician and cannot be discounted.

General Election Chances: They are pretty bad right now but who knows what they will be like by the time 2016 rolls around. He is one of the smartest and most capable politicians on this list.

Rand Paul

Why Him?: His father Ron Paul gained a passionate following in the Republican primaries the past two elections, and with his decision not to run again, there are those that expect his Kentucky Senator son to pick up the torch.

Primary Chances: Rand is a more typical Republican than his father, which may up his chances, but would also make the idea of him leading his father's movement seem ill suited for him. If he were to run in 2016 his chances would be limited, but he also might be able to build a base for a future run.

General Election Chances: Rand may be too conservative on some issues to do well in the General Election. Also, being from Kentucky would not help him.

Ted Cruz

Why Him?: The Texas senator has become a Tea Party leader and also a strong voice in the movement against the affordable healthcare act and immigration reform.

Primary Chances: Right now Cruz represents a strong hard right element to the party. However, he could become an embarrassment in four years time. Also, the fact that he was born in Canada yet is so anti-immigrant is deliciously ironic.

General Election Chances: Dismal. He is far too conservative and being from Texas is not a help. He is a hot ticket right now, for some reason, but expect him to fall off this list soon.

Bob McDonnell

Why Him?: The current governor of Virginia has long been touted and with the GOP needing to win that state desperately next election, he would be an obvious choice.

Primary Chances: Moderately good in this election but he is facing some pretty stiff competition. If he gains a lot of support from the party establishment he could win. UPDATE: McDonnell had a recent scandal that could effect his 2016 chances. As for now I am going to keep him in Dark Horses but he could drop off soon.

General Election Chances: He gets a plus in geography but he could end up bringing social issues too much to the forefront.

Paul Ryan

Why Him?: He is another rising star in the Republican Party and gained national fame when Mitt Romney picked him as his VP.

Primary Chances: In two words: pretty bad. Ryan did not handle the media scrutiny of being a national canidate very well. He has a tendency to lie, almost pathologically. Also, he will have to make the case for himself after being on a losing ticket in 2012.

General Election Chances: Ryan would be one of the worst general election candidates in the GOP field for the same reasons listed above.

Wild Cards

Jon Huntsman

Why Him?: Running last time, former Utah Governor seemed to be setting himself up for a future run. There is a chance he may be back.

Primary Chances: Huntsman would have to face a much more moderate party to have a chance. The only way he could win the primary is if top tier candidates decided not to run and Republicans were ready to embrace Huntsman's views on climate change and evolution.

General Election Chances: Huntsman is another one of the candidates who would probably do better in the general election than in the Republican primary.

Rick Santorum

Why Him?: It is the Republican tradition to nominate the guy who was second place in the previous primary. In 2012, to everyone's surprise, that was Santorum. This may convince him to run again.

Primary Chances: If no strong social conservatives choose to run, then he could take that place again. Jindal would be the candidate most likely to steal his thunder. If he were not to run, then Santorum could gain a foothold.

General Election Chances: Santorum's only general election bonus would be being a former Senator from Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, like Romney and Massachusetts, the state may have soured on him by now.

Susana Martinez

Why Her?: 2016 is going to be a year where women and Hispanics will probably get a lot of focus. Martinez would be a great person for the Republicans to have in the primary, and she is the Governor of New Mexico, now a blue state in the past two elections.

Primary Chances: She would have the same problems as Rubio. She hasn't expressed an interest in running but she would likely get a party push. If the party makes a huge shift to a moderate position she could have a chance, but would likely be a better VP pick.
General Election Chances: She would be a good candidate if she could get through the Primary, or she became a Democrat.

Nikki Haley

Why Her?: Another rising star from the Republican Party, Governor of South Carolina and a woman of Indian descent. There will be a strong push for her to run.

Primary Chances: Haley's chances of running went up considerably once it started to look like Jim DeMint's plans were not to run for President, but to go to the Heritage foundation. She now has a good primary shot if she decides to run.

General Election Chances: Being from the South is not a bonus for a Republican and she is still a young political novice. Being a woman could deflect some heat on social issues, or it could make it even worse.

Mitch Daniels

Why Him?: The Indiana Governor was sought in 2012, and although enthusiasm for him has cooled, he may be sought again in 2016.

Primary Chances: The thing about Daniels is that he often seems a bit boring. He will need to try and make a case for himself. If Christie were not to run he could possibly slip into the top tier.

General Election Chances: Daniels is a Midwestern Republican but being from the solidly red Indiana may not help him. He would need to become a bolder and more interesting candidate, the same quality that would help him win the primary, to do well in a general election.


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    • mio cid profile image

      mio cid 

      3 years ago from Uruguay

      This is a very accurate list of candidates and good assessment of their strength and weaknesses .I think by the time the primary campaigns begin there will be a long list that will include most of the people you mention and probably one or two that do not appear yet.I think Ben Carson will also Run because that will not only fulfill his vanity and ego but will provide him with tons of money and notoriety .

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Bob McDonnell still on list?

    • Robephiles profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      I think Jindal confirmed the fact that he plans to run with some of his recent comments. They showed a strong awareness of where he would need to be to win the general election. It comes down to what the primaries are like next time.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      6 years ago from East Coast, United States

      I think that Romney blew it with the 47% bit. You can't insult half of America and then expect to win an election. Next time, the Republicans may have a chance due to 8 years of a Democratic president. I am thinking Bobby Jindal because he is a moderate and may be able to unite the R party and appeal to some Democrats as well as Independents.

    • Robephiles profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      It is true that the 2016 election will depend completely on how people feel about Obama's second term then.

      The idea that Obama would destroy the Republic is hyperbole but i after four years things are like now or worse a Republican will have an advantage in the election no matter who he or she is.

    • Lions Den Media profile image

      Lions Den Media 

      6 years ago

      You mention some good people. The question that remains for the immediate future is - what will the economic conditions be in 4 years? Furthermore, what frameworks will be implemented by Obama over the next 4 years? Will there still be a Constitutional Republic that exists?


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