Despite all the hand-wringing within the Republican Party about having to change in order to have a chance at winning the presidency in 2016, history would suggest that the nominee has a fairly good chance at success just by showing up.
You have to go back to George H.W. Bush for the last time that a vice president followed a president into office after two terms. Given the poor state of the country when Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in 1980, and the success of the man who would be referred to as the Teflon President because no controversy stuck to him, it wasn't surprising that Bush rode Reagon's coattails and handily defeated Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis by more than 7 million votes. Bush also slammed Dukakis in the Electoral College vote 426 to 111.
Bush's "read my lips, no new taxes" statement, and subsequent tax increases were blamed for his re-election loss to newcomer Bill Clinton in 1992, but by then most folks had come to the realization that Bush was no Reagan and he likely would have lost anyway.
President Barack Obama may be pulling us out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, but the first four years have been a hard, slow climb. I don't see Joe Biden riding a similar wave to the presidency, unless a lot of things change between now and 2016.
Before the Reagan/Bush years, there were several instances of vice presidents assuming the presidency, with mixed results.
Gerald Ford took over when Richard Nixon resigned in 1974, but Carter defeated Ford two years later. Lyndon Johnson took over after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, and then won election on his own in 1964 by beating Barry Goldwater in a 20 million vote landslide. Johnson didn't run again in 1968, and Republican Richard Nixon, who in 1960 had lost a close race against Kennedy, defeated Herbert Humphrey by a slim 500,000 popular votes while taking the Electoral College votes 301 to 191.
The last real political dynasty came with Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal. Roosevelt defeated Herbert Hoover, whose policies did little to lift us from the Great Depression, in 1932. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936, and by the time the election rolled around again in 1940 the world was embroiled in what would become World War II and he won again. Roosevelt had three different vice presidents, and it was Truman, who was Roosevelt's running mate in 1944, who then assumed the presidency upon Roosevelt's death in 1945.
Truman defeated Thomas Dewey in 1948.
Roosevelt's election four times to the presidency, something that no other person had done, prompted Congress to limit presidential terms and, on Feb. 27, 1951 the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. It limited presidents to two terms, and said that if someone assumed the presidency in the middle of a term, if it was more than two year than the person could only run for office once. That effectively limited presidents to no more than 10 years in office. The law, which passed Congress in 1947, specifically exempted Truman, but he chose not to run for another term anyway.
Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower defeated Adlai Stevenson by more than 6 million votes in 1952 to end the Democrats' stranglehold on the presidency.
Republicans today have many rising stars who didn't run this year and who are likely contenders in 2016. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal or even Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan could appeal to a wider swath of voters than Mitt Romney did, provided of course that they aren't devoured in the primaries or slapped down by extremists who label them not conservative enough.
Democrats, of course, have their own crop of rising stars. Even our own Gov. Martin O'Malley is often mentioned as a possible candidate for the presidency.
Regardless of the candidates, though, voters have a pretty good track record over the years of switching between the two major parties. Perhaps it is our hope for some sort of political utopia in which the party controlling the White House solves all our problems, and the subsequent letdown we experience when it turns out to be business as usual and nothing seems to get done.
Whatever the reason, with Obama winning a second term, the chances that Republicans will retake the White House are high. Unless, of course, they continue to alienate huge segments of the population who find some of their ideas more appropriate for the Hoover years and out of step with life in the 21st century.