- The Washington Times - Friday, December 7, 2012

Many conservatives are understandably demoralized by last month’s election returns. President Obama won despite being saddled with the weak economy, high gas prices and soaring deficits. Yet, if history is any guide, the likely 2016 Republican presidential nominee is Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

After electoral setbacks, GOP voters have a habit of selecting the next candidate in line. Following Barry Goldwater’s drubbing in 1964, Republicans tapped Richard M. Nixon. President Gerald Ford’s loss to Jimmy Carter in 1976 paved the way for Ronald Reagan’s sweeping victory four years later. President George H. W. Bush’s 1992 defeat led to then-Sen. Bob Dole capturing the GOP nomination in 1996. Sen. John McCain, after losing a bruising 2000 primary fight to eventual winner, then-Texas Gov. and later President George W. Bush, captured the Republican nomination in 2008.

Hence, Mr. Ryan has a strong chance of emerging victorious in the 2016 GOP primary — provided he actually throws his hat in the ring. Judging by several of his recent speeches, the brainy House budget chief certainly looks interested in a possible run. For conservatives, this should be welcome news. Mr. Ryan is the de facto intellectual leader of the GOP’s reformist wing who champions serious spending cuts, changes to entitlements and budgetary restraint.

Besides Mr. Ryan, however, there is a crop of possible new candidates who could make the 2016 primary fight much more competitive, exciting and intellectually lively than previous contests. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is near the top of the list. Articulate, telegenic and charismatic, Mr. Rubio is already attracting a lot of attention from the Republican rank-and-file with an optimistic message of economic growth, tax cuts and American exceptionalism. Moreover, he has one major advantage over other potential GOP rivals: He is Hispanic. Mr. Rubio’s candidacy could help Republicans regain a significant chunk of the Latino vote — a growing electoral bloc that has been going heavily Democratic in recent years.

There is also Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Like his father, retiring Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, he is a favorite among Tea Party Republicans. The reason is obvious: He is a committed small-government libertarian, who is willing to hack away at Washington’s bloated bureaucracy, massive federal deficits and out-of-date entitlement programs. Like his father, Mr. Paul is not afraid to challenge the Federal Reserve. His calls for sound money and abolishing the Fed have the potential to resonate with numerous voters as inflation rises.

A possible dark horse candidate is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He is more conservative than either his brother, George W. Bush, or father, George H. W. Bush. While leading the Sunshine State, Mr. Bush amassed a successful economic record with education reform policies that actually worked. The other potential wild card candidates are reform-minded governors. Scott Walker, Bobby Jindal and Rick Scott are rising GOP stars who bring solid conservative credentials to the table.

So rather than being dispirited, the right should look upon the next four years as the Tea Party’s chance to take the reins of the GOP. As Mr. Obama’s dismal stewardship fractures liberal coalitions and sinks the economy, Tea Party Republicans should be ready to seize the moment.

The Washington Times