- Rand Paul
- Bobby Jindal
- Rick Perry
- Marco Rubio
- Chris Christie
Rand Paul is certainly going to be the leader of the small-government libertarian pack. He has stayed almost constantly true to those principles. However, the libertarians aren't the dominant force in the GOP, so he couldn't be the dominant leader. His small-military views just aren't popular with most of the GOP, and they can't overlook that.
Bobby Jindal bucked a fair amount of the 2012 losing rhetoric, so it seemed that he was trying to make a name for himself as an intelligent reformer of the GOP. As a moderate, I like that, but I don't know if enough Republicans feel that way. Certainly the noisy ones don't. Nonetheless, he deserves to be on this list right now, but he could easily fall off by going too far or not far enough.
Rick Perry doesn't deserve to be on this list. He was a laughable candidate in 2011. Maybe the pain meds have worn off, but you can't fix stupid. He gives every indication of having been briefed on all of his opinions, rather than mulling them over and developing his own ideas. I think he's someone's marionette. If he can become a national leader, then I don't know anything about American politics.
Marco Rubio is certainly running for leader and running for president. However, Romney's campaign showed the weakness of choosing someone who is constantly running for office instead of being engaged in actual governing and problem-solving. Rubio is flash but no substance at this point. I don't think the GOP will go for a lightweight again.
Chris Christie has lately been reviled among many Republicans, so it's hard to imagine him rising above that to be a spokesman and leader of a large enough slice of the GOP. He's certainly got the verbal talent and a can-do record, but too many Republicans hate him right now, and that's not going to be easy to change.
Something missing from this list is the conservative-pragmatic governor archetype. I'm thinking Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, John Kasich, and Rick Snyder. They've all dealt (cleaned up/reformed) at the state level with the kinds of problems the federal government faces--how to trim spending and reduce benefits for government workers without massive service cuts. Also important, they haven't tainted themselves with culture war rhetoric on abortion and contraception as Virginia governor Bob McDonnell has.
These governors are the solid, working leaders in each of their states, but who speaks for them nationally? If they did have a national champion, that would be a formidable leader. I'm going to be curious to see how this develops. The next few months will be worth watching.
Extra. Will we have new leaders in punditry? It's less important, but it would be such a relief.
Update 6/21/13. According to this column, Jindal has trotted out the typical GOP fallback position of bashing liberals. It looks like Jindal will put on any stance when it is expedient, including clear-eyed reformer. Too bad it was just an act.