It’s a bit early for any serious speculation–much less red-hat-counting–about the likely identity of Benedict XVI’s successor as Pope. But there is one fascinating bit of earlier analysis, via the Duck of Minerva, from a young political scientist best known as the guy who started the Sarah Palin for Veep talk in 2008, Adam Brickley. The same year he indulged in that extracurricular activity, Brickley wrote a senior thesis at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs addressing a hypothetical 2013 election of a Pope to succeed Benedict XVI.

Based on others’ accounts of the strength and dynamics of various factions in the College of Cardinals, Brickley suggested the most likely 2013-vintage Pope would be a relatively young theological conservative from somewhere other than Europe or the United States. He doesn’t name names, but keep that early line in mind when the white smoke goes up, and if Brickley’s right again, it might be time to consult him for gambling advice.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.