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Politics

Republicans Have Deep Bench for 2016 Presidential Race

That's right, we're taking a look way into the future -- when the GOP will have better odds .

Republicans who are unenthused about the field of potential presidential challengers for 2012 will be singing a different tune in 2016. Either they’ll be solidly behind Mitt Romney’s bid for a second term as the country’s 45th president or they’ll be taking sides in a wide-open race in which the GOP will have a deeper and more exciting field than Democrats will put together after eight years of President Obama.

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At the moment, the second scenario seems more likely, in part because of the built-in advantages an incumbent of any party has in a presidential contest, and in part because Romney and others in the Republican race aren’t exactly building a compelling case for independent voters to make a switch. If the economy goes south again, then all bets are off, but based on where things stand today, Obama has to be the favorite.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s look ahead to the next race. After eight years in office, Obama would be ineligible to run again, so both nominations would be up for grabs.

Republicans would have one huge advantage: more candidates with high name recognition and strong fund-raising records in a position to run. That includes some who are running this year but will come up short -- former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and maybe former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Huckabee is the oldest in the group, and he’ll be just 61 in 2016.

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There is a rich tradition of the GOP bestowing the nomination on a candidate who previously ran and lost. The names on this list include Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and John McCain.

But if you’re a Republican, the upbeat 2016 news goes beyond this year’s candidates. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, son of one president and brother of another, will be only 63 in 2016 and may be more amenable to a run than he was this cycle. Plus, there is a sizable list of younger, fresher faces who might be tempted by the prospect of living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, Rep. Paul Ryan of Indiana and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who also served in Congress.

The Democrats will have a much thinner bench than Republicans in 2016, whether or not Obama wins next year. Vice President Joseph Biden will be 72 then and would be 73 for the inauguration -- four years older than Ronald Reagan was when he became the oldest person elected to a first term as president. And Hillary Rodham Clinton, who came up short against Obama in 2008 but remains a party favorite, will be 69 in 2016.

If they don’t run -- and odds are they won’t -- potential contenders for the Democratic nomination include New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, former Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and perhaps Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. History will be working against the eventual Democratic nominee. The last time Democrats won more than two consecutive presidential terms was in 1948.

It’s far too early to carve anything in stone, of course, but on paper, 2016 is starting to look good for the GOP.

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