Apparently it's never too early to start running for President because Rasmussen has an interesting poll out detailing who Republicans most and least want to see as their party's nominee for the 2016 Presidential race. For a company that's built its reputation on data and polling, Rasmussen is stingy with the numbers so I'll break them out for you here.
The survey asked "Suppose the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary were held in your state today. If you had a choice between Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker or Paul Ryan, for whom would you vote?" The results break down as follows:
Chris Christie: 21%
Marco Rubio: 18%
Jeb Bush: 16%
Rand Paul: 15%
Paul Ryan: 13%
Scott Walker: 6%
These numbers show little movement from the results of a McCaltchy poll conducted last month which also showed Christie, Rubio, Bush, and Paul in close contention but there is, of course, much more to a primary than the numbers. The American primary system pits the candidates in a marathon like race across numerous states. It's about money, endurance, and not a small bit of quirky luck. Remember that in the run-up to the 2012 race the GOP primary saw moments where Perry, Cain, Gingrich, and Santorum all lead the polls.
Nonetheless, my money is on Rubio.
The GOP is going to want someone who holds the party line. While Republicans have been dragged through the mud for their unwillingness to compromise with the Democrats in Congress, what much of the country sees as a liability will remain a virtue for the Party's base. The GOP, institutionally, sees little virtue in electing someone who has a proven track-record of bi-partisanship if that comes at the expense of the base. Numerous Republicans still blame Mitt Romney's lack-luster conservative credentials for the defeat in 2012; don't expect them to stand idly by while the party nominates someone like Chris Christie who's literally reviled by the more extreme elements of his own party for what they see as a betrayal of the Party when he praised Obama's response to Hurricane Sandy.
Likewise, the GOP is not going to be eager to relive the Bush years. While many of that same radical base continue to defend George W. Bush as among the greatest modern Presidents (and his poll numbers have improved somewhat since he left office) there's a good reason that Bush was sidelined for most of the 2012 race. The Party leadership will shy away from the Bush name simply because it will provide ample reason for Democrats to drag the corpse of the Bush Presidency back out for another beating.
Rand Paul is a crank, pure and simple. He, like his father, resonates with a certain highly vocal and highly motivated minority in the party and while that tends to give him some fairly good polling early on when interest is low, the field wide open, and the turnout small, he'll have difficulty rising much above that 15% nationally.
That leaves Ryan and Rubio. Both are young and charismatic leaders with real chops in the Party but where Rubio can bolster his "electability" credentials by promising to deliver some of the Democratically dominated hispanic vote, Ryan has only his failed bid for the White House with Mitt Romney to fall back upon. In the end, perhaps in a fit of unwarranted optimism, I think the GOP will pick Rubio.
Of course, that is several years out at this point. Fortunes can and do easily change in politics. Rubio could be brought down by scandal, Christie vindicated in some heretofore unexpected way, or Rand Paul somehow legitimated on the national stage.
Ultimately though, it might be "history envy" that tips the scales. With Hillary looking like the Democratic front runner, it may behoove the GOP to offer up the opportunity to elect the first Hispanic American president in order to prevent Democrats from electing the first woman to the oval office.