"There aren't a whole lot of obvious possibilities out there," says William Mayer, an expert on presidential primaries at Northeastern University in Boston. "A good part of that, it seems to me, is that there was a Republican wipeout in '06 and '08, such that they lost a fair number of senators and governors."
The GOP gained a lot back in 2010, but it's too soon for those newly minted governors and senators to run, says Mr. Mayer, who has in mind people like Governor Christie, Senator Rubio, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "It won't surprise me if the Republicans have a strong field in '16," says Mayer.
That is, if a Republican doesn't win this time around. Though Obama's reelection is far from guaranteed, especially with the latest spate of discouraging economic numbers, including a boost in unemployment to 9.1 percent. It's Obama's vulnerability that has so many Republicans salivating for a strong nominee and so many deciding to run.
Mr. Pawlenty and Mr. Huntsman, the two others with perceived top-tier potential, remain question marks over their ability to attract a significant primary following. Neither has much of a national profile – Gallup has Pawlenty at 6 percent, Huntsman at 2 – though it's early. They have both assembled their core teams, including major fundraisers. The trick for both will be to raise enough money to get their names out. But without much name ID, it may be hard to raise big money.