A theme that keeps coming up in the comments is that Romney sucked and there’s going to be some mythical future second-coming of Ronald Reagan who will save the party and win the presidency.
In fact, Romney was the second coming of Ronald Reagan, and we (not me personally) rejected him. Romney was the best candidate to appeal to a broad cross-section of Americans and not just to the extreme anti-abortion Christian right wing. Just as Reagan was governor of a left-leaning coastal state, so was Romney. Romney was accused of “flip-flopping” on certain issues, but Reagan did the hugest flip-flop of all, he switched from being a Democrat to being a Republican.
Let’s look at the bozos who ran against Romney in the primaries: Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann. None of these would have done as well as Romney did in the general election, and they would have cemented the reputation of the Republican Party as the party of stupid (or in the case of Newt, the party of ugly and angry old men).
The history of Republican presidential nominations is that the nominee is always someone who was around and known during the previous presidential election cycle. Therefore, the likely contenders for 2016 are Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie. Paul Ryan has no gravitas and his absolutist anti-abortion position will scare off independents in a general election. Chris Christie is another governor from a left-leaning coastal state who will probably not pass evangelical right-wing purity tests, and I also think he may have sunk Romney’s election chances at the end with his praise of Obama’s hurricane response. That leaves us with Marco Rubio. Why would blue-collar whites in the North vote for Rubio when they wouldn’t vote for Romney? (Christie would do very well with blue-collar "Reagan-Democrat" whites, but as I said above he will be rejected by the "base.")