Where have all the 2012 GOP candidates gone?

Updated
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appears before the House Rules Committee to testify on his party's budget proposal.
Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., appears before the House Rules Committee to testify on his party's budget proposal.
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

As election 2012 fades from the political conversation, all the losing presidential players are tossed in the wind to old jobs or new lives. None have risen to the Palin-esque stature of party tastemaker, just as none have been offered their own Huckabee. Indeed, the 2012 GOP crop–only a short while ago broadly displayed on what seemed like endless debate stages–have moved into obscurity somewhat quicker and more willingly than their 2008 predecessors.

Rick Perry is still the governor of Texas. Rick Santorum seems to have a healthy, if modest, public speaking career. Herman Cain is busy with his radio show and its new feature, “Ask the Hermanator.” Newt University offers ongoing video lectures, its latest on the potential on self-driving cars. Ron Paul has retired from Congress and writes weekly columns on his website. And Rep. Michele Bachman is under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for alleged federal campaign finance violations.

Except for one interview with Fox News and an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mitt Romney has kept a low profile since losing to President Obama on Nov. 6th. That’s to be expected; losing the presidency can’t be fun. What’s more noteworthy is that Romney’s running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, has largely done the same thing.

“He seems to have fallen entirely off the radar of early state Republicans,” Politico’s Jonathan Martin wrote Monday. “Democrats bring up his name with more zeal than do people in his own party. And his footprint at the Conservative Political Action Conference was so faint that his being an afterthought was itself an afterthought. What the heck has happened to Paul Ryan?”

Those close to Ryan say the he’s concentrating heavily on his work. Being the GOP numbers guy means Ryan has a haul ahead of him with upcoming fiscal fights. His new budget was panned by both Democrats and Republicans, and serves as an example for the kind of austerity politics from which some GOPers have begun to distance themselves.

“We must not become the party of austerity,” said Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at CPAC. “We must become the party of growth.”

Ryan doesn’t seem to be rushing toward a 2016 run, though he hasn’t ruled the option out. The Wisconsin congressman isn’t making as many waves as rising GOP stars like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. And he doesn’t have as volatile a personality as someone like Chris Christie. As Martin points out, the Republican Party appears to be shifting away from its next-in-line approach to presidential candidates. In keeping with their rebranding efforts, they’re looking for something less conventional.

“The party seems determined to find its own Barack Obama,” Martin writes. “That is, a politician who may enjoy in celebrity and pizzazz what he lacks in experience. Obama’s appeal was in no small part anchored in his race, and finding a nominee who isn’t another white guy is certainly an imperative for some Republicans. But what hurts Ryan’s prospects isn’t merely that he’s white—it’s that he’s vanilla.”

But for all Ryan’s faults, he’s still a major player in the GOP. As Jamelle Bouie over at The Plum Line reminds us: ‘While some Republicans are trying working to shed the party’s association with austerity, the Ryan budget remains the foundation for their “growth” agenda. To wit, Jindal wants to end income and corporate taxes in Louisiana, while Rubio sees balanced budgets as an urgent national priority.”

msnbc’s Lawrence O’Donnell has called Ryan “the most recent losing vice-presidential candidate who will never be president.” Six months after the presidential election, it’s unclear whether Ryan even wants to be.

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Where have all the 2012 GOP candidates gone?

Updated