Process of elimination for center-right Republicans. If Christie’s too damaged by Bridgegate and Jeb Bush is too damaged by his brother’s legacy, who becomes their champion in the primaries? They’d prefer a guy who’s hawkish, who’s socially conservative enough to please evangelicals, but who’s “reasonable” enough to help business interests with things like amnesty. If he’s young, Latino, and telegenic, so much the better.

I know just the man.

A group of Republican fundraising heavyweights and wise men in Washington’s business community are solidly behind Rubio, and see him not only as someone who could win the White House, but someone they can work with…

Political strategists think Rubio’s chances of winning the GOP nomination in 2016 are looking better because of the bridge scandal embroiling New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) decision to forego a White House bid to aim for the gavel of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee…

But first, Rubio would face the difficult choice of whether to opt for a presidential run when it could cost him his Senate seat.

Florida law does not allow Rubio to run simultaneously for the Senate and the White House in 2016, when his seat in the Senate is up.

Florida’s gone twice for Obama and 2016 is, of course, a presidential election year, so Rubio may figure that if he doesn’t run for president, he’s apt to lose his Senate seat anyway. Democrats will go all out to beat him and tea partiers disaffected by his immigration stance won’t be there in the same numbers as they were in 2010. On the other hand, as a potential nominee, my sense is that Rubio’s more acceptable to grassroots righties than Christie and even marginally more acceptable than Bush. He may have disappointed the base but he doesn’t seem to disdain them. Besides, all three are bad on amnesty but Rubio’s reliably conservative on most other issues, and if he’s serious about running, he’ll spend the next 18 months sounding hawkish on immigration to get right with the right. If you dislike him because he’s too hawkish, there’s no obvious reason why you’d like Christie or Bush more. Although, if Jeb grows more interested in running, an obvious way for him to distinguish himself from Dubya would be to take a conspicuously pro-diplomacy, anti-NSA line a la Rand Paul. Doesn’t really matter for Rubio’s purposes, though: Given that they draw from similar donor and operative pools, if Jeb runs, Rubio almost certainly won’t.

If Rubio runs, though, where does he win? Assuming Paul, Scott Walker, and either Huckabee or Santorum (or both?) are in the field, winning Iowa will be difficult, even for the undisputed centrist champ. He’s a better fit for New Hampshire, but Rubio wouldn’t have much of an “angle” to attract voters there the way the last few winners have. McCain was the maverick and Romney was the neighbor; the guy with the angle next time is Paul, the libertarian. Doesn’t mean a centrist can’t win, but can he win as the third-stringer after Christie flamed out and Jeb passed on the race? What’s the argument for Rubio over, say, Walker?

Exit question: Related to all this, does Christie’s CPAC speech matter? I’m 99 percent sure it doesn’t because speeches never matter, but if there’s a sharp negative or positive reaction from the audience, maybe a few minds will be changed about his viability among donors or campaign operatives. If he goes out there and hammers the mainstream media for being out to get him and the crowd cheers, could be that establishment types will treat it as a sign that he can pander his way to acceptability among tea partiers. If he goes out there and gets booed (which is unlikely, as I don’t think it’s ever happened to a major speaker at CPAC), maybe they decide they’re pumping a dry well and start to look around for alternatives.