When Mitt Romney introduced Paul Ryan as his running mate in Norfolk, Virginia on Saturday morning, Romney accidentally introduced him as “the next president of the United States.”
Should the Romney-Ryan ticket lose in November, Ryan may well get a chance to be the country’s next president, for he is now instantaneously at the very top-tier, along with Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin, among the many candidates who could make a run for the Republican nomination in 2016.
When Romney chose Ryan to be his running mate, he chose a figure who could unite the Tea Party and establishment wings in the Republican Party. As the vice presidential nominee, Ryan would be one of three candidates (Jeb Bush would represent the establishment wing and Sarah Palin would represent the grassroots, Tea Party wing while Ryan would be the fusion candidate) at the front of the 2016 pack.
This weekend, Politico ran a report about the jockeying that is already going among some on the right for 2016.
The report noted that also-rans from previous nominating contests — former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry — on Saturday spoke at a conservative forum in Iowa, which was hosted by Citizens United and the Family Leader, one of the most influential conservative organizations in Iowa.
Politico noted that “at least two potential 2016 candidates have already conferred with national advisers about a possible campaign in the event that Romney loses.” These two potential candidates most likely come from the establishment wing of the party, where hiring the right advisers counts for points in the so-called “invisible primary.”
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul have been to Iowa this month. Paul attended the Faith and Freedom Coalition, while Palin was at an outdoor dinner hosted by Bruce Rastetter and mingled with Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli attended the Iowa GOP’s Lincoln Day Dinner.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has steered Virginia’s economy well, cultivated its strong business climate and has credibility with social conservatives, has stumped for Romney on the campaign trail. McDonnell, along with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another Romney surrogate and favorite of the east coast monied elite, are two other potential candidates who would be in the 2016 mix.
South Dakota Senator John Thune, South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint, and Florida Rep. Allen West will also be discussed, as will South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susanna Martinez. So will New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte.
If the Romney-Ryan ticket loses in the fall, Republicans, who have a much stronger bench than Democrats, will be jockeying for position — three-wide, so to speak — like NASCAR cars on the track.
Much of what the other, non-top tier candidates do as 2016 approaches, though, will be dependent on what Bush, Ryan, and Palin do — or not do — should Obama win a second term.