Obivously the answer to that question is “who knows?” But here are three useful heuristics.

1) It will be whomever is “next in line.”
2) It will be the most “electable candidate” that the GOP
primary-voting base finds acceptable.
3) It will likely be a moderate, as the longer a party has been out of the White House, the more moderate their nominees become.

Who does #1 mitigate towards? Probably Paul Ryan. The 2012 primaries didn’t really produce an obvious second-place finisher. In terms of remotely credible candidates, the folks who ran in 2012 who have any kind of plausibility whatsoever are Santorum, Gingrich, Perry, and Huntsman. Bachmann is nutty and Cain is a goofball.

What about #2? The question here is not “electability” so much as what the GOP primary-voting base finds acceptable, especially in light of #3. After 8 years of Clinton they swallowed a “compassionate conservative.” Will they be willing to do that again? Or will they view Romney as a moderate squish and try to nominate someone who more wholeheartedly embraces their views and attitudes?

Other possibles include Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, or Mike Huckabee, but I consider none very likely to prevail.

I think Gingrich is too widely despised within the party to win. I think Santorum isn’t taken seriously enough. I think Perry may have too thoroughly damaged his standing with his lousy performance in 2012.

So that leaves Ryan and Huntsman. It is possible he has too distanced himself from the party to be credible, but he may have a lot of Beltway support. Also, Ryan has the whiff of loser on him.

So, I’m not sure, but I think Huntsman has a pretty good shot.

There are a few other potentials I think have a real chance. Bob McDonnell is one, as are a few other governors – Haley, Martinez, Sandoval – but they’re not well groomed for the national stage.

I think everyone is sick of Bushes.

Candidacies from Pawlenty or Daniels would be…interesting.

Also, too, Palin, also, too.

Where’s my popcorn?