Now that the 2012 Presidential race is officially in the history books, it's time to start looking ahead to who might consider running in 2016 for the Republican nomination. While the 2012 primary field was considered to be relatively weak, the 2016 race promises to have a much more dynamic group as members of the 2010 conservative tea party movement aim for the next level. Since the list will be large, we will break it into a list of more conservative and tea party candidates, and a list of more establishment types. (And let us know who you would pick, too.) The conservatives:
Marco RubioMarco Rubio is the rare candidate who has been a favorite of both the tea party and the establishment movements within the GOP, and would be one of the few candidates acceptable to both. His appeal is broad and he has the potential to reach across demographics. Rubio stands up well against the media and handles "gotcha" questioning with ease and class.
Paul RyanIt was rumored that Paul Ryan was considering a run in 2012. While he obviously didn't run, he did join Mitt Romney's failed campaign. His impact overall was minimal. Though a favorite of many Republicans, many consider him to "wonky" and not passionate enough. Believe it or not, seeming too serious and qualified for a job seems to be a negative in this age of presidential politics.
Sarah PalinThe other most recent VP candidate, Sarah Palin, probably would have run in 2012 if she were running at all. Her candidacy would have filled a glaring hole in the field and - given the relative weakness of the candidates - she probably could have won the nomination. 2016 will be much harder, especially since she will be close to a decade out of politics. There hasn't been much indication that she is remotely interested in running and she would likely have to find a way to make an impact over the next 2-3 years to even be a feasible option.
Scott WalkerScott Walker won the Wisconsin Governor race in 2010, then faced a union-led recall election in 2012 and won bigger than the first time. Walker is a favorite within the party for being a strong conservative reformer and taking on unions. He will presumable run for election for Governor again in 2014, so it may be asking a lot to run a heavy duty campaign for the 4th time in 8 years should he decide to run.
Bobby JindalLouisiana Governor Bobby Jindal easily won his statewide contests in 2007 and 2011. He is ineligible to run for re-election in 2015 due to term limits and it has been indicated he will not leave his job early to run for the US Senate in 2014. In other words, he will have some time on his hands right around 2016. Jindal, like Rubio, is another figure well-liked by both wings of the Republican Party.
Nikki HaleyNikki Haley is the governor of South Carolina who first won election in 2010. She will be up for re-election in 2014. Haley received a tea party boost in her 2010 primary when Sarah Palin endorsed her and she quickly ascended above the competition.
Susanna MartinezThe one-time Democrat Susanna Martinez is a well-liked, no-nonsense governor of New Mexico. She is the first Hispanic female Governor in the United States. Martinez is a conservative governor in a blue state with many positives that could lead to a viable campaign.
Rand PaulDon't be surprised to see the continuation of a Paul in GOP presidential primaries. Unlike his father, Rand Paul is viewed as a bit more mainstream though they share most of the same ideology. Paul was clearly tempted to run in 2012 and is likely eying a run in 2016. Paul's challenge would be to break away from the image of his father and attract voters beyond the small-but-vocal base his father enjoyed.
Most Likely to Run/Not RunOf those on the conservative list, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul almost seem like locks to run. While Governor's once had the upper-hand in presidential elections, the age of Facebook and Twitter has made personality-driven campaigns a greater factor. US Senators tend to have great recognition and appeal here. Jindal is next most likely to run given he has accomplished just about everything else one man can in a lifetime. Palin and Haley are the least likely to run. Palin has been relatively inactive while Haley does not have a strong national following.
Update 8/1/2013: Add Cuban-Canadian-Southern Baptist-Tea Partier Ted Cruz to the list of possible contenders.