As the Republican Party, stung from Senate and presidential losses, continues to look inward for answers, it's inevitable that some politicians thought to be headed for greatness may end up taking a backseat. One major change that seems to be evident is an appeal to a more diverse group of voters, particularly among women and Hispanics. The most obvious way to build appeal to these constituencies, alongside policy positions that will be popular among them, is to recruit and elevate a more diverse crop of GOP candidates and party leaders. And that means some on the current farm team may now never get the call up to the Big Leagues. Here are five Republicans who may lose out as the party seeks to shake things up.
Former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown
Brown's transition in 2010 from minority party state senator to one of the most influential swing votes in the U.S. Senate was swift. Unfortunately for Brown, his term was just as brief. After winning a special election in Massachusetts to replace liberal lion Ted Kennedy, the former male model was the toast of conservative Washington. His good looks and natural manner fueled the rumor mill that he had national potential. But thanks to his failure to win a full Senate term in 2012, it's unlikely you'll hear Brown's name thrown into the ring for the 2016 presidential contest, alongside the likes of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor
The Virginia congressman moved quickly up the House leadership chain since his election in 2000. He's a prolific fundraiser for the GOP and though a No. 2 to Speaker of the House John Boehner, Cantor carries significant weight among the more conservative wing of the caucus, managing to curry favor and respect among Tea Party members. But Cantor's rise to the top may stall as his party grapples with its image problem and the Tea Party brand slips in electoral strength. If he hopes to maintain popularity among members in hopes of one day becoming speaker, he may end up marginalizing himself among a wider audience. He will be able to do this thanks to effective gerrymandering that leaves House districts more and more partisan and reinforces fear among members from primary challenges rather than general election opponents.
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell
McDonnell's resume is built for a national campaign, having served as Virginia's attorney general prior to his governorship. His proximity to Washington, D.C. also grants him great access to the party's movers and shakers. Helping his cause is the generous face time McDonnell had with top GOP politicos during the 2012 election, as they made frequent stops in Virginia, hoping to win over fickle swing-state voters. It's an open secret that McDonnell would like to be in the 2016 presidential mix. But McDonnell, like Brown, will likely be vying for space among a list of more diverse candidates (again, Rubio) and a party intent on making it clear that they are more open and welcoming to everyone than they showed 2012.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Some experts think Pawlenty, a folksy Midwesterner, pulled the plug on his still viable campaign too early in the 2012 primary process. He jumped out after losing badly in the much-watched Iowa straw poll, despite investing much time and effort in the state;perhaps to save his viability for another election cycle. And he certainly came close to beating out Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's running-mate. But given the shellacking Republicans took in 2012 by failing to connect with minorities and women voters, it could just be that Pawlenty's time will never come.
South Dakota Sen. John Thune
Like Brown, Thune popped onto the national political scene with a stunning, unexpected victory – unseating the sitting Democratic Senate Majority Leader. And like Cantor, he was tapped early as having leadership potential and has smoothly risen among the ranks of his peers. Despite winning top committee assignments and good will among his peers, it seems Thune's rising star has stalled. In the face of a party feeling like it needs to shake things up, he may have peaked as third-in-rank among Senate Republicans.