Three years from today, we’ll inaugurate a new U.S. President. Chris Christie looks bad right now. Hilary Clinton looks good. What else do we know?

Interesting moment in U.S. history today: it’s been five years since Obama was inaugurated, and in three years (from today), someone else will be. Chris Christie looks bad at this moment, and Hilary Clinton looks OK — she just got a glossy, fawning profile in Time Magazine. (The profile isn’t really out yet, but the title is “Can anyone stop Hilary?”, which seems a bit fawning.) Marco Rubio is on a different track right now — and while it’s noble and could yield tremendous results, it could also blow up in his face. People throw Bobby Jindal’s name around, but there’s this:

… and while that media kerfluffle is old, there’s also the notion that (a) he’s a little weird and (b) the last (and only) President from Louisiana was Zachary Taylor, and he died in 1850. There’s also ideas around Elizabeth Warren, as well as a handful of other people — essentially, the orbit on the Democratic side comes down to what Hilary does (I would guess) and the orbit on the Republican side comes down to who gives them the best chance to win (you would hope).

So, how is this all going to play out? In short answer: we have no idea. In slightly more nuanced answer, here are some things to consider. First, remember the growing ideological divide in America. Also remember that people like Ted Cruz do exist. So it’s possible that we get an uber conservative coming out of the GOP side? (Possibly, but not probable.) But whoever the GOP puts up, they do have a chance, because consider these things: 

Since the passage of the 22nd amendment limiting the president to two terms, only one time (1980-88) has the incumbent party held the White House for more than two consecutive terms.  The regularity with which control of the White House changes hands also suggests that the playing field may tip in the GOP’s favor in 2016.

And then, consider this (same article):

If economic and political conditions in 2016 were the same as they are today, what would happen?  So assume that Obama’s approval rating is about 41 percent.  Assume that GDP has grown 1.6 percent in the first two quarters of 2016.  And, of course, no incumbent will be running.

Based on those assumptions, the model predicts that the Republican Party has a 64 percent chance of winning the presidency.  That is far from 100 percent, of course.  At the same time, it doesn’t suggest much cause for GOP pessimism in January 2014 — maybe even some Democratic pessimism, in fact.

It’s not all sunny for the Republicans by any means, though. Now consider this:

Over the past six elections, Republicans have averaged just 211 electoral votes and have not won more than 286 since 1988. Democrats averaged 327 electoral votes for those six elections, and their lowest total, even in losing, was 251 in 2004. Given the current alignment, the Republicans must find states that have been voting Democratic and convert them to their column in 2016.

Shite. So what are those states?

From the GOP perspective, Florida and North Carolina may be moving in a Republican direction. But one GOP strategist said that Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire and Virginia are actually moving toward the Democrats. Most of the other possible battlegrounds, with the exception of Georgia, appear to be politically static, which would be better news for Democrats.

OK, so that’s not very promising. There’s also this:

Democrats recognize that Ohio will always require maximum effort and could go either way in the future, and they acknowledge that, under the right circumstances, Michigan and Pennsylvania could be more hospitable to a Republican nominee.

Obviously a good portion of this (hopefully almost all of itties back to the candidates (i.e. who they are), but assuming the candidates can hold their “strong states” (i.e. states that go Democratic or go Republican contextually), the Dem candidate basically gets up on Election Day with 242 electoral votes. That means he/she needs 28 to win. If you look at four of the last six elections and shade votes to Democratic/GOP by state depending on those results, the Democratic candidate goes into 2016 with 281 electoral votes — i.e. he/she has already won.

Bottom line is that the path is harder for Republicans in the current climate — they need to do more lifting to flip states to their column than a Democratic candidate might. Chris Christie might never have been the guy; he could be too brash, Northeastern, Jersey-ish in terms of winning a state like Ohio or Colorado or something equivalent. Maybe Mike Pence is the man here. Maybe it’s Rand Paul or Tim Pawlenty. (It’s likely none of those people.)

Because the GOP has a steeper climb, and because the cornerstone of a lot of this will come back to increasing diversity of the voter base, the GOP desperately needs a candidate that can connect with that area — especially if Hilary runs and white women turn out in droves for her. That seems to be the logical play. Or hell, maybe the whole thing is just about wind and solar energy.

Ted Bauer