Somewhere from this diverse group, Republicans say, could emerge a Moses-like figure — maybe several of them — to lead the party out of its wilderness.
“I just have a lot of confidence in our message-deliverers now,” said Illinois Republican chairman Pat Brady. “I love these guys.”
“Both the message and the messenger are critical,” added Saul Anuzis, a GOP leader from Michigan. “Right now, we are all a party waiting for the next messenger.”
That is a relatively unusual position for the Republicans. When it comes to picking a presidential nominee, theirs is a party that generally works like a European monarchy, giving its nod to the next in the line of succession.
Many here pointed to the 30 Republican governors as having the potential both to set the party on a new course and produce from their ranks a successful 2016 presidential candidate.
One of them, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, gave a keynote address here where he warned: “We must stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.”
Jindal, an Indian American who has a wonkish appeal, is one of several GOP governors who are being sized up as presidential prospects. Others, with very different styles, include blunt-talking Chris Christie of New Jersey and Virginia’s polished Robert F. McDonnell.
Party leaders also are excited by the prospects of some of their stars in Congress, including charismatic Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, whose performance as the 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee got strong reviews in Republican circles.
That the Republican establishment should be looking so eagerly for fresh faces is not the norm.
Going pretty far back, the party has almost always picked a nominee who had run before (Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bob Dole in 1996, John McCain in 2008, Mitt Romney in 2012), who had been vice president (Richard M. Nixon in 1960 and 1968, George H.W. Bush in 1988) or who came with a pedigree (George W. Bush in 2000).
In nearly every one of those races, there was an insurgent alternative or two, but they were inevitably beaten back as the party rallied to its perceived heir apparent.
There is no obvious figure standing next in line for 2016 — nor are GOP leaders eager to see one, given their disappointment over Romney’s defeat by President Obama, whom Republicans had expected to be vulnerable.
“The idea of the next-guy-in-line concept is sort of a dying idea in our party,” said Reince Priebus, who was easily reelected RNC chairman on Friday. “It’s a boring idea, and we don’t want to be a boring party.”