A major conversation among conservatives this year has been focused around the presidential election of 2016. I’m not going to waste your time and go on a long tirade about what went wrong in the 2012 election because those articles and commentaries have already been published. But, despite Republicans’ defeat in the 2012 national election, Republicans have the ability to look forward and start grooming a new candidate to represent the Republican Party and conservative ideals in 2016.

First, let me eliminate one of the so called “frontrunners” that has been in the media’s spotlight lately: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. At CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference held in Washington DC in March, a straw poll was held of all the conservative attendees. Rand Paul won the straw poll barely, right in front of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Despite how much I appreciate Rand Paul’s conservative efforts the week before CPAC when he delivered a filibuster for 13 hours on the Senate floor, I do not support Rand Paul. Why? Because it was a publicity stunt to gain attention. I believe that he purposely staged a filibuster the week before CPAC to develop hype about him so he could win the CPAC straw poll vote. CPAC straw polls have been known to predict the eventual GOP candidate for the general election–for example, Mitt Romney, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan all were previous CPAC straw poll winners. Like his father, Congressman Ron Paul of Texas, Senator Rand Paul knows how to create a scene and win the youth vote. In the CPAC 2013 straw poll results, 52% of the voters were between the ages of 18-25. Rand only beat Senator Marco Rubio, who was the perceived frontrunner until Rand’s filibuster hype, by 2%. The youth vote proved crucial in the 2013 CPAC straw poll as it will continue to prove to be crucial in the 2016 election. More and more youth voters are becoming politically engaged courtesy of political expansion on social media . 24/7 exposure to political messaging on social media makes it easier to choose sides politically. It also makes it easier for the sensationalist stories about politicians doing extraordinary things (like sustaining a 13-hour filibuster) to become viral, thus making the youth vote go to support the interesting, sensationalist candidates. The youth vote is critical to winning presidential elections (as seen with the considerable youth backing of President Obama’s campaigns in 2008 and 2012.)

My problem with sensationalist politicians (like Rand and his father Ron Paul) is that they are absolutely un-electable. Most presidents who are elected–Democrat or Republican–are moderates. Republicans need to be able to appeal to both sides to get the right amount of electoral votes in the battleground states to win. By adamantly advocating for these far extreme candidates to represent the GOP as whole, we are simply digging our own graves. If we want to win another presidential election, we must look to the moderate conservatives–those who can be loved by all. We need a respected candidate that the voters can identify with–a “good ole boy” (or girl) that citizens can trust. We need to move past the Mitt Romney era and try to find another candidate that the voters can love and adamantly support because the candidate is like “one of us.”

I perceive that the Rand Paul hype will die down, and the young voters will forget about the “super dope” filibuster of spring 2013. My prediction for the front runners in the Republican primary of 2016 are in favor of the following candidates: Senator Marco Rubio (FL), Governor Jeb Bush (FL), Governor Nikki Haley (SC), Governor Bobby Jindal (LA), and Congressman Paul Ryan (WI). Only one person out of the Bush/Rubio pair from Florida will be able to run in the primary. The political consultants and backers of both won’t pit them against one another since both have about the same pool of supporters from the same state. I predict Rubio will win out of the two. Bush will be a great contender if he decides to run, but I believe America isn’t ready for another Bush in the oval office, no matter how smart and talented he is. There has not been a winning Republican ticket which didn’t have a Bush/Nixon on it since 1928. Republicans have a huge pool of politicians that are willing to run for president–we shouldn’t keep relying on the same old candidates’ families to bear the weight of the Republican party in the White House. In short, Marco Rubio, Nikki Haley, and Bobby Jindal are both true conservatives and represent minorities represented in American politics (race in the case of Rubio/Jindal, and gender in the case of Nikki Haley.) Republicans are in need of qualified minorities to run in order to win votes from the minority groups that tend to vote with the left. By having Rubio, Haley, and Jindal on the ticket, we get that strong pro-minority appeal and we would also have qualified Republicans on the ticket. If the Republicans can have a candidate that is not the typical “white/male” run in the election, I think they will have a shot at winning the 2016 election. However, Congressman Paul Ryan will give the Rubio/Haley/Jindal minority candidates a run for their money. If Americans can recognize his remarkable economic and budgetary knowledge and he can improve his credentials in other areas, he will prove to be a front runner for the GOP nomination as well.

I rule out the following from the 2016 GOP race: Governor Chris Christie (NJ), Governor Scott Walker (WI), Senator Rand Paul (KY), and Congressman Rick Santorum (PA). Christie, Walker, and Santorum are unelectable because they are too extreme in certain areas of political beliefs and will not appeal to the moderates. Also, in the case of Christie and Walker, they are too polarizing–even in their own states–to win a presidential election. Santorum is too well known because of his strict stance on social issues like abortion for the American public to seriously consider his policy views is other areas. Republicans need a well-rounded candidate to appeal to a broad majority of voters.

I may be completely wrong in my predictions–there even may be someone that will rise to the occasion in 2016 who Republicans don’t even expect to be a contender. What I do know is that whoever the candidate is, they will need to appeal to the American people, not focus on hot-button-issue voters, and they will need to have a message which appeals to younger voters without seeming too extreme to appeal to the older vote (like Rand and Ron Paul.) As a young, voting, college conservative I’m thoroughly entertained by sensationalists like Rand Paul’s political stunts and commentary. I might even agree with a majority of what Rand Paul advocates. However, we don’t need an “Entertainer-In-Chief,” we need a Commander-In-Chief who can be respected by his/her peers and citizens and can win an election. Three years and counting until 2016. Here’s to a winning conservative presidential contender.