Who is left to pick up the pieces of the Republican Party and lead them to victory in the next election?
* Rubio: Rubio’s political ascent seems almost perfectly timed. As the party’s most experienced young Latino politician, he checks a lot of the boxes when it comes to reinventing the so-called party of old white men. “Rubio is a natural to address and help us solve our ‘immigration problem,’” said longtime GOP strategist David Norcross. “He has first-hand experience and a great deal of earned respect from the Hispanic community and the GOP at large.”
* Jindal: Jindal checks many of the same boxes as Rubio, as a young, Indian-American rising star with a good reputation. He’s also the newly installed chairman of the Republican Governors Association, which gives him a national platform. But his first entree into national politics, of course, didn’t go well, and he’s not yet a household name for most Americans.
* Paul Ryan: The question is whether Ryan returns to his role as the House GOP’s budget policy guy or goes for more of a public profile. He can have that profile if he wants it, by virtue of his vice presidential nomination. “Paul Ryan will be watched closely and has an opportunity to distinguish himself,” said Republican National Committeeman Henry Barbour.
* Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell: The understated McConnell has always been more of an inside political player than the public face of the GOP. What’s more, he’s got a reelection campaign to worry about in 2014.
* House Speaker John Boehner: Boehner is the most powerful Republican in Washington and may be the most likely candidate to step forward and carry the party banner. But shepherding legislation through the House is a full-time job. “The Speaker becomes the Capitol Hill leader of the party,” said one GOP strategist plugged into the Hill. “(McConnell) will let Boehner play Mr. Outside, and Sen. McConnell will play Mr. Inside…”
* New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: Christie has a reelection campaign in 2013, but if he wins, he will head the RGA in 2014 and should assume a major national role. The question is whether GOP concerns about him praising President Obama’s hurricane response a week before the election will be forgotten by then.
* McCain: McCain, of course, was the GOP presidential nominee, but he’s always been regarded with some caution by the conservative base, and he’s definitely an old white man. But he’ll continue to be a big voice and formidable presence — particularly on issues of foreign policy.
* Reince Priebus: The Republican National Committee chairman is a capable messenger, but the role of party chairman isn’t as powerful as it once was. Assuming he runs for another term this January (and wins), Priebus is likely to focus more on guiding the party internally than carrying its external message.
* Rick Santorum: The second-place finisher in the GOP presidential primary is usually viewed as the favorite for next time, but that won’t be the case with Santorum. He’s more of a conservative activist than the face of the party, and his uncompromising conservative style isn’t really what the party wants to project right now.
* Jeb Bush: If Bush has designs on running for president in 2016, you can expect to hear from him shortly. He’s been a little quiet in recent years, but we’re now four years removed from his brother’s presidency. Few in the party are as well-regarded as Bush, and he’s been pitching moderation on immigration for a long time. “Jeb Bush could play a significant role in helping the party get the tone and policy right,” Barbour said. Bush is a strong candidate to step forward.