The race to become the presumed frontrunner for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination feels awfully hot given that the 2012 election is all of three weeks old. Serious handsome middle-aged men are conspicuously flying to Iowa and holding fake-secret meetings near the White House, and they're not even being that fake-modest when reporters ask if they're interested in running for president. Why so soon? Maybe it's because Mitt Romney was never an integral part of the GOP machinery to begin with, and so he has little claim on holding the title of de facto leader of the party. Maybe it's because he lost an election in a year when Republicans thought they couldn't lose. Maybe it's because the Republicans' problems this year seem so obvious: a failure to appeal to women, minorities, and young people. Those are much better problems to have than what they were stuck with in 2008: owning two unpopular wars and a financial crisis. In any case, here are the guys ready to make a few tweaks and usher in a new Republican era, like, right now.
2016 Maybe Candidate: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
Flagrant display of 2016 intentions: It's not that Bush held a meeting near the White House with former staffers and pollsters in which they were "reminiscing and entertaining questions about his political future." It's that Bush told the National Review's Robert Costa about it.
Not-even-that-coy-about-his-ambitions quote: "'I am here to catch up with folks and promote education reform,' he said, smiling."
Obstacles to 2016 dominance: The majority of Americans still blame his brother for the economy.
2016 Maybe Candidate: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
Flagrant display of 2016 intentions: Rubio went to Iowa, site of the first presidential caucuses, earlier this month, supposedly to celebrate the state's governor's birthday. He just so happened to speak about the GOP's future: "We need to do a better job of going out and convincing our fellow Americans who perhaps don't see things the way we do." And he accidentally-on-purpose tried to do that be reframing the fight over taxes: "The way to turn our economy around is not by making rich people poorer, it's by making poor people richer."
Not-even-that-coy-about-his-ambitions quote: "'For Gov. Branstad's birthday, his 66th,' Rubio said, flashing a grin when asked what he was doing in the state," CBS News reported.
Obstacles: Rubio was a Tea Party-backed candidate in 2010 who had not been all that supportive of immigration reform until Romney lost. He's only been in the Senate two years.
2016 Maybe Candidate: Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum
Flagrant display of 2016 intentions: Santorum held a press conference in Washington Monday to denounce a United Nations treaty that forbids discrimination against people with disabilities. It has been signed by 126 countries and was negotiated by President George W. Bush. The Senate will take up the treaty during the lame-duck session. Santorum says it would be an "assault" on American sovereignty. One of Santorum's daughters is disabled.
Not-even-that-coy-about-his-ambitions quote: When the Weekly Standard asked about a 2016 run on Monday, Santorum replied, "I'm open to it, yeah."
Obstacles: Santorum, whose presidential campaigns failed in 2008 and 2012, says weird things about sex.
2016 Maybe Candidate: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Flagrant display of 2016 intentions: Christie made a big show of filing to run for reelection as governor Monday. There had been speculation that he would quit after a single term, which expires in January 2014, to focus on getting more famous nationally.
Not-even-that-coy-about-his-ambitions quote: "I am in this for the long haul," Christie said at a news conference announcing his reelection plans. "The person who helped lead them through the initial crisis wants to be here to lead them through the rebuilding," he said, referring to Hurricane Sandy.
Obstacles: Though Christie is enjoying a post-Sandy approval rating between 72 and 77 percent, many Republicans are very unhappy with him for saying nice things about Obama right after the storm, and right before the election.
2016 Maybe Candidate: Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal
Flagrant display of 2016 intentions: Jindal criticized Mitt Romney's comments that Obama bought the election with "gifts" to minorities and young people. He condemned "offensive, bizarre comments" some Republican candidates made this year. And he sounded more populist: "We’ve got to make sure that we are not the party of big business, big banks, big Wall Street bailouts, big corporate loopholes, big anything," he told Politico. "We cannot be, we must not be, the party that simply protects the rich so they get to keep their toys."
Mostly-coy-about-his-ambitions quote: "I got the best job in the world and I'm going to be focused on being governor of this great state for the next three years and being chairman of RGA next year and getting a bunch of great Republican governors elected," Jindal told Politico the week after the election. No winks were reported with this quote.
Obstacles: Jindal gave the response to President Obama's 2009 State of the Union address. It did not go well.