COMMENTARY | Mitt Romney, in retrospect, was a vanilla candidate with weak convictions who the patchwork coalition of GOP voters begrudgingly accepted as a compromise.
There will be a large and vocal presence among Republicans, especially in the Tea Party and especially during the nominating process, calling for a more conservative candidate a la Rick Santorum.
But in the immediate aftermath of Obama's re-election several party leaders made clear that they felt softening the party line on social issues from marriage equality to immigration was the only way to fight the coalition built by Obama. Is it possible to marry the conservatism required for tea party support with the softer tone on social issues most party leaders believe is necessary to win a general election?
The few public opinion polls currently available show that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is the early favorite among those polled. Rubio's resume is basically perfect. A second generation Cuban-American from a swing state which the Republicans lost in 2012. The tea party publicly labeled him as their preferred Vice Presidential candidate weeks before Romney chose Rep. Paul Ryan.
And he was one of the first politicians to speak out after the election on what direction the Republican party needed to go in upcoming elections. If I were a betting man, I'd put my money on Marco Rubio in 2016.
For the Democrats, Joe Biden is an obvious choice. He left the door open when asked if he thought 2012 would be the last time he voted for himself. And the last time a Democratic president served two terms, his two-term vice president succeeded him as a candidate.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a popular choice as well, as a liberal trailblazer on issues ranging from marriage equality to tax reform.
But the winning coalition built by Obama and his team depended on appeal to minorities. African Americans, women, LGBT voters, Hispanic voters and almost every other "minority" group in the country voted overwhelmingly for Obama.
The party would be foolish for turning its back on those groups in 2016. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who will be stepping down in 2013 would be a clear nod to that coalition again. Her credentials as a senator, proactive First Lady, the nation's top diplomat, and experience on the 2012 trail make her the clear choice for Democrats in 2016, especially after a two-year break.