2016 Presidential Candidates: Chris Christie, Marco Rubio and the 9 Republicans Who Could Lead the GOP


So we've seen article after article about how the GOP needs to change its ways, become more libertarian, more inclusive, cater to more than the white male demographic, and so forth. But every period of enlightenment needs thought leaders who guide the party in the new direction.

These politicians, some whom are already party leaders, some who have served previous administrations, and some who are rising stars, will be the thought leaders who will take the reins and set the agenda for the new GOP going into the 2014 mid-term elections and beyond.

1. Condoleezza Rice:

Condoleezza Rice served first as national security advisor and then as Secretary of State to President George W. Bush. A leading and highly respected intellectual on foreign policy, not just for the Republican Party but in general, she is an ideal candidate for taking control of the GOP's foreign policy platform going forward.  

2. Robert Zoellick:

Considered the black sheep on Romney's foreign policy team during the 2012 election for his less belligerent views, Zoellick was considered one of the favorites to take up the Secretary of State position on a hypothetical Romney administration. Whereas Rice's expertise lies in the realms of national security and diplomacy, Zoellick brings a different skill set, one focused on global economics and trade. Free trade will likely be a central part of a future GOP platform, and Zoellick will be at the forefront of such a push. He is also well known in libertarian circles for being an advocate for returning to the gold standard, something most economists criticize as unrealistic.

3. Chris Christie:

Now that foreign policy brains have been rounded up, you all knew this was coming. The New Jersey governor has enjoyed the spotlight for the better part of 2012 as a top Romney surrogate, but also as an effective Republican governor with 53% approval rating in one of the country's most reliably blue states. As I mention in another article, Christie is one of the most honest politicians out there, and has no misgivings about partnering with Democrats, even those who pose a direct and credible political challenge to him. His loud and sometimes offensive personality has been a breath of fresh air to the stale and scripted speeches we've seen these last few years.  

On the platform front, Christie has proven to be tough on the public unions that have been sucking up all of our taxpayer money, and has not been afraid to be unpopular, cancelling projects such as the NJ-NY tunnel, when the money wasn't available. However, he has also shown a moderate side, putting the first Asian American, as well as the first openly gay justices on the bench of New Jersey's supreme court. As a top contender for the presidential nomination in 2016, Christie's brand of pragmatic, and brutally honest, moderate politics will be the foundation for the future of the GOP.

4. Jeb Bush:

Despite the connections his name has to a former unpopular president, Jeb Bush embodies every quality all Americans ask for in their president. As governor of Florida, Jeb Bush had broad appeal. His main strength, other than being a measured, intellectual moderate (despite more conservative personal values), is with the Hispanic community. In his Florida elections, he took a staggering 80% of the Cuban-American vote, and 56% of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote. He speaks Spanish fluently, is married to a Mexican-American, and the two have a mixed-race son, George P. Bush, who also appears on this list. As many have stated, the Hispanic community has far more in common with the GOP in terms of family values and views on self-reliance. The GOP will be nothing if it doesn't embrace the Hispanic community, and Jeb Bush will be leading that charge.

Jeb Bush also is involved in outreach to other Central American and Caribbean based communities, most recently Haitian-Americans. When it comes to promoting diversity and inclusiveness in the GOP he is at the forefront of the effort.

5. Susana Martinez: 

Governor Martinez of New Mexico was another one of the GOP all-stars who turned down an opportunity to run for the nomination this year as well as turning down a spot on Romney's short-list for running mate. The first female governor of New Mexico, and the first female-Hispanic governor ever, she is part of the new, diverse face of the GOP that we first glimpsed during this year's Republican National Convention.  

Platform wise, the former Democrat (she changed parties in 1995) Martinez will be more popular with the conservative element of the GOP, being both pro-life and opposed to gay marriage. She will be a key asset in retaining the loyalty of the conservative base, whom more than anyone is feeling defeated after Obama's recent victory. She will also bolster Jeb and George P. Bush's influence in bringing the Hispanic community.

6. Marco Rubio:

We are now firmly in the territory of the GOP's rising stars. Like many on this list, Rubio will be influential attracting the Hispanic vote. He likened Arizona's immigration law to that of a "police state" and was an influential supporter of the GOP's version of the DREAM Act, which would grant visa for military service or college. However he has also been a vocal opponent of amnesty, in any form, which is unpopular among that demographic. One of the few people on the list who is not a governor (though that may change) Rubio is another standard-bearer for the conservative half of the GOP, though unlike the more belligerent adherents to the Tea Party doctrine, Rubio has proven to be open to discussion and compromise. He is pro-life, but has proven to be more sensitive on the issue than many of his counterparts. He will likely lead the party from the front, whether we want him to or not. Just days after Romney's defeat, Rubio made a trip to Iowa. It is highly unlikely Rubio will replicate Obama's primary success and secure a nomination on such little experience. The GOP does not have the same attitude towards youthful enthusiasm and prefers more venerable candidates. However, it will position him perfectly for a VP slot.

7. George P. Bush:

Young, charismatic, and having recently filed with the Texas board of elections, though no one knows for what office, George P. Bush is following in the footsteps of his famous family and all indicators show he is going to be wildly successful. He has already won accolades as one of People Magazine's top 100 bachelors in 2000, and is likely to receive even more as his career continues. He got into politics early, speaking at his grandfather's RNC in 1988 at the age of 12, and went on tour during his uncle's 2000 and 2004 campaigns as a surrogate, bolstering the Bush families well known, and popular stances on immigration reform.

Bush is one of the few on this list with a military career, serving as an intelligence officer in the Navy after being inspired by the 2006 launching of an aircraft carrier bearing his grandfather's name, and the story of Pat Tillman, a hero of his. He completed a 6-month tour in Afghanistan under a false name as part of the Special Operations Command. 

8. Tom Cotton:

Young, a bronze starred veteran of both Iraq (101st Airborne division) and Afghanistan, and a graduate Harvard, both undergraduate and the law school. Ironically his first professor at Harvard Law was Elizabeth Warren, but it seems her liberalism didn't rub off on him. He is a dynamic newcomer, freshly elected last Tuesday as a representative of Arkansas. Notable is the fact that Cotton didn't join the army until after graduating Harvard Law, taking a six-figure pay cut in service of his country.

He first got noticed after he submitted a letter, which he worked on between patrols in the Iraqi desert, to the NY Timeschastising them for publishing military secrets on how the U.S. tracks terrorists' finances. The Times didn't publish it, but Cotton cc'd conservative blog PowerLine, which did. The letter spread like wildfire over the internet and Cotton was in trouble, or so he thought. Luckily, Army Chief of Staff General Schoomaker saw the letter, and passed it around to all his generals, informing them to take note. Cotton got away with an "attaboy!"

9. Mia Love:

If I told you there was a black, Haitian-American, female, conservative, Mormon in the Republican Party would you believe it? Well she exists, and she is the current mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. She received endorsements from all the GOP's top brass, and brought the house down  at the RNC. She ran on Tuesday for the house, losing to six-term Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) by only 3,000 votes. She is another conservative flag bearer, but her views are not well documented, as abortion and gay marriage don't come up in mayoral races too often. She governs by three simple questions, "Is it affordable? Is it sustainable? Is it my job?" 

One issue of contention is her views on immigration. She is quoted saying that the first step on immigration control is to remove the incentives for people to come here, including the ability to have "anchor-babies." It was alleged on the blog Mother Jones that Love, herself, was an anchor baby, but Forbes has since debunked that claim.

Though she lost on Tuesday, she retains her position as mayor and is undoubtedly eyeing another run at the house, or the governorship in the future.

It is likely more Republicans will come out of the woodwork in the future. There are many rising stars that trend too far to the right to be considered viable candidates at the national level anymore.  With the reelection of Obama and the round rejection of social conservatism demonstrated last Tuesday, GOP stars such as Nikki Haley, Kelly Ayotte, Jan Brewer, and Scott Walker have an uphill battle ahead of them. They will need to get with the program because 18 months from now, when midterm election season is in full swing, we will get our first glimpses of the GOP version 2.0.