The gathering of conservatives at CPAC this year naturally stirred more talk about potential 2016 presidential candidates. What has conservatives riled up, though, is the CPAC straw poll which Senator Rand Paul took at 31 percent with Senator Ted Cruz at a far distance of 11 percent, tying with Dr. Ben Carson. Some of the runner-ups include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, former Senator Rick Santorum, and Senator Marco Rubio.

Taking the poll seriously, Senator Paul took time to write an op-ed recalling the successes of President Reagan despite his contemporary conservatives criticisms. Paul directed his column at Senator Cruz, who was considered to be a source of tension within the Republican Party during the government shutdown, despite his personal praises of Reagan.

Conservatives across the nation are now in debate over who the Republican Party should select for the nomination in 2016. Some find Cruz too extreme, and some find Paul equally as extreme. Discussing Christie brings up more debate: some consider him not conservative enough or even a traitor given his praise of President Obama during the recovery efforts from Hurricane Sandy.

Amidst all of the current rhetoric, a large part of the population might be missing out on potential candidates like Bobby Jindal, governor of Louisiana. Jindal has record of educational success in his state, with thousands of students attending scholarship school via vouchers, increased graduation rates and improved test scores. Nine out of ten of those students using the vouchers are minorities, so liberal accusations of Republicans being anti-minority just won’t work with him.

If the GOP is looking for a fresh start, Governor Suzana Martinez of New Mexico might be the perfect running mate for a candidate like Jindal. Martinez is both the first female governor of New Mexico and the first Hispanic female governor in the United States. Martinez also expresses respect for the office of the President, indicating a greater inclination for bipartisanship than some of her fellow Republican Party members.

Of course, people like Governor Nikki Haley and Congressman Paul Ryan are being thrown into the mix for potential candidates. But what’s important to remember here is that the elections are still two years away. I definitely would NOT have predicted Mitt Romney to be the GOP candidate for the 2012 elections, and part of what hurt his success was the criticisms from fellow Republicans early on before a nominee was selected.

My point is, it is way too early to be attacking potential GOP candidates. No matter whether you consider yourself to be a moderate, in line with the Tea Party, or libertarian-leaning, I think we can all agree that any GOP candidate will be a better alternative to the Democratic candidate who will surely increase spending on wasteful programs and continue to put our nation in debt.

I encourage all conservatives to keep an open mind for all potential candidates, because harsh rhetoric will split the Republican Party apart, which is exactly what liberals would love to see happen. If we engage in the type of politics the left often imposes on the right, we surely will not win in 2016.

Marcello

Elizabeth Marcello | William & Mary | @eliz_mariah