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Who would replace Chris Christie as the GOP establishment 2016 front-runner?

January 10, 2014, at 9:19 AM

If the political scandal enveloping New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) ends up derailing his 2016 White House dreams, there are several Republicans who could take over his spot as the preferred candidate of the GOP establishment.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is probably best positioned to inherit the support of the GOP establishment, which encouraged Christie to run for president in 2012 and has been taken somewhat aback by the latest scandal.

Bush has the advantage of being a two-term governor of a swing state, and he holds the potential to attract the support of Latinos by having a Mexican-born wife and children of mixed descent.

However, Bush’s baggage includes a family legacy that Republicans may want to move away from, and support of immigration proposals that many conservatives in his party flatly reject.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is a conservative governor who won election in a blue state and even beat back a recall effort a year later.

Walker would attract strong conservative support with his combative record of taking on public sector labor unions.

However, unlike Christie, Walker faces re-election later this year and could have a tough race ahead of him. If he loses, it’s unlikely he could make a White House bid.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) might be a long shot candidate to take over Christie's support. Once seen as the most acceptable candidate to both establishment and Tea Party conservatives, he has a lot of work to do to repair the damage caused by his bungled presidential bid in 2012.

Most of the other frequently named GOP presidential contenders — Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) — are running away from the GOP establishment and are not the natural heirs to Christie's support.

It's very early yet and Christie may end up surviving the current crisis. But there's no doubt the scandal has the potential to dramatically shake up the Republican presidential race.

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