Two weeks have passed since the monumental election of 2008. I hear this is a time for non-partisanship and compromise. In that spirit, I’ve momentarily stopped stalking Barack Obama to discuss three superb candidates that can bring give the White House back to Republicans very soon. Yes, there’s a catch.

The decisiveness of the Democratic sweep has left our friends on the right reeling. Apparently, they’re desperate enough to contemplate some very stupid things (Palin 2012?!). But there’s no need to pull the goalie just yet: The right has many smart, gifted, diverse leaders. And therein lies the dilemma: Is the Republican Party ready to forget old prejudices to let any of its three best hopes emerge as the party nominee?

The first of the three potential saviors is obvious: Mitt Romney. Despite his faults (and there are many), the former Massachusetts governor would be a far more serious challenger to the Obama movement than the McCain/Palin/Joe the Plumber charade that just wrapped up. Known as a capable, brilliant business mind, Romney has a JD/MBA from Harvard (which actually one-ups Obama, in case you’re counting).

Democrats may disagree with Romney’s stances on guns, abortion and the war in Iraq, but to Republicans, Romney should be the obvious choice to challenge Obama. And yet, he was thrown aside in this primary cycle despite running perhaps the most cohesively conservative campaign of all the candidates.

It’s a faux pas to say that Republican voters rejected Romney because he is a Mormon, but I think it’s largely true. Romney attempted to put the party base at ease about his Mormon faith, stressing the values it shares with mainstream Christianity (including, you know, Jesus). But GOP voters didn’t buy it. Will they be more open in 2012?

You may not know of the second potential savior, but believe me, Bobby Jindal is the hot new thing in the GOP these days. The son of Indian immigrants, Jindal’s rise to the governorship of Louisiana is almost as astounding as Obama’s rise to the presidency. How does a man of color become governor of a place like Louisiana? Other than the obvious prerequisite of accepting Jesus, consistently being the smartest man in the room doesn’t hurt (Jindal is a Rhodes Scholar who turned down offers from Harvard Medical School and Yale Law School to go to Oxford instead).

My affinity for Jindal as a fellow Indian-American cannot overcome the assault his issue stances inflict on my political sensibility. Still, for Republicans, Jindal is the complete package: a brilliant conservative mind, a good family man and a talented orator. In many ways, he is the Republicans’ dream come true: Their very own Obama. Still, while we now know Americans can elect a man of color to the presidency, an equally important question still looms: Can conservatives nominate a man of color for the presidency?

Other than skin color, Jindal will also have to face down the right’s traditional distrust of “un-American” names and faces. Perhaps that won’t be too tough for Jindal because he was born in the United States, but it will be a much bigger barrier for the last of the three potential GOP saviors: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The popular governor of California has been overlooked in the recent discussion of who will be the GOP’s next leader. That’s probably because Schwarzenegger was born in Germany and would need a constitutional amendment to be eligible for the presidency. That may sound drastic, but such an amendment has been accepted in most circles as eventually inevitable.

The strongest opposition to the amendment has always come from conservatives (as I learned from the, um, colorful responses to my column on this subject last January). But perhaps conservatives will be more accepting this time, remembering that their last savior was also an actor-turned-governor of California.

Of all the leading Republicans across the country, Schwarzenegger has the most centrist appeal and is the most electable. His stances on environmental issues and his recent support for gay marriage confirm what California leaders have been whispering for years: Schwarzenegger is not bound by party paradigms. Voters in California love that, and so would the rest of America. But first we’ll need that amendment — a bitter pill for the GOP, especially given its recent rhetoric on immigration.

Perhaps the greatest consequence of Obama’s historic triumph will be to force the GOP’s hand to open the door even further. It would be ironic if the Republican Party nominates Romney, Jindal or Schwarzenegger in 2012 as a reaction to Obama’s victory. It will be another major step forward for our country, and this time, Republicans have the chance to be at the wheel.

I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

Imran Syed was the Daily’s editorial page editor in 2007. He can be reached at galad@umich.edu.

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