A likely rival to Kasich and Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, campaigned as chairman of the Republican Governors Association for fellow governors in 23 states over the past two months and is basking in the glow of unexpected blue-state victories. Christie kept a grueling pace on the campaign trail — he visited Illinois eight times and Florida seven times — and came away convinced that with the right economic-results-oriented message, Republicans could make inroads with independent, Hispanic and black voters.

Although Christie mostly has rebounded politically from a major bridge-related scandal a year ago, his temperament remains a source of concern within the party elite. He recently told at a man who was interrupting his speech, “Sit down and shut up.”

John Weaver, who managed his share of outbursts as a top presidential campaign strategist for the often-blunt Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), said of Christie: “I’m not sure you can have 75 town hall meetings in New Hampshire and yell at people every day. People want to talk about the future, they want to be hopeful, they want to know what you’ll do. They don’t want to be yelled at.”