Less than two weeks since the last presidential election, campaign advisors, lobbying firms and conservative activists are already holding meetings to mull which of the potential 2016 Republican candidates to bank on.
Several GOP activists and sources said that of all those who might enter the race, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are on top, with the B-list including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul.
Some argue that Christie would be the best choice if the economy continues to sour and voters want a forceful fixer to take charge. "By then he would be in his second term and somebody who has proven he can work with Democrats to get things done," said one key supporter.
However, several former top Romney aides who held key GOP positions before joining his campaign said that the party might take some revenge on the Christie for his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy smashed New Jersey, requiring immediate federal aid.
"I think that is going to come back to really hurt him," said one Republican official. "Primary voters will remember." While some new polls suggest that the hurricane and Obama's response didn't impact the eventual election results, Team Romney believes that it robbed their campaign of last-minute media attention and pictures showing Christie with Obama gave the president a little boost in his leadership category. But other Republicans believe the hurricane reaction will be long forgotten in three years when primary season ramps up and that some of those who do remember will like Christie more for reaching out to Obama in a time of need.
Bush is the pick for those looking to expand the party, especially among Hispanics. "He speaks Spanish, is smart, and will restore civility. He has a conservative common sense with moderate tone," said a Bush associate.