The 2012 election is behind us. Let the 2016 speculation begin!
With President Barack Obama's victory, 2016 will be a race without an incumbent president and, depending on what Vice President Joe Biden does (more on that below), we could be looking at a race as wide open as 2008 for both parties.
Here are the five most likely — and strongest — contenders for the Democratic and Republican nominations. They are listed in no particular order.
Chris Christie: The idea circulating in some conservative circles that the New Jersey governor's kind treatment of President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy somehow led to Mitt Romney's loss is preposterous. If Christie can win reelection next year — and that's a big "if," given the possibility that Newark's Democratic mayor and Twitter superhero Cory Booker might run — he has a strong case to make for the GOP nomination.
Jeb Bush/Marco Rubio, above: It's hard to see both Florida Republicans running in 2016, since Bush has long been a political mentor to Rubio. Bush probably has the right of first refusal in the race, but our guess is he stays away and plays a leading role in helping Rubio. Rubio has a real opportunity to try to lead his party to its next stage by pushing for a reassessment of the GOP's relationship, or lack thereof, with Hispanics.
Bobby Jindal: The Louisiana governor seems all but certain to make a bid for the presidency in 2016, and he's got a strong argument in his favor. He's Indian American, he's compiled a decidedly conservative record as governor of the Bayou State, and he's among the wonkiest members of his party.
Paul Ryan: Ryan acquitted himself well in his brief time on the national ticket and in so doing raised his profile with donors and activists within the GOP. His announcement that he would return to the House in 2013 to chair the Budget Committee suggests that Ryan will spend the next two years or so burnishing his reputation as the "ideas guy" within the GOP and, perhaps, as the most high-profile foil to President Obama and his policies.
Rand Paul: The senator from Kentucky will probably pick up the standard laid down by his father, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, and, in so doing, ensure himself at least 10 to 15 percent of the vote in every early-voting state in 2016.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: The race for the Democratic nomination begins — and could end — with what decision the soon-to-be former secretary of state makes. If she runs — and she has said she is not interested — it's hard to imagine some of the people listed below making the contest.
Joe Biden: Just in case you had ruled out the possibility of Biden running in 2016 — he will be 73 on Election Day 2016 — Biden reminded you of it while voting Tuesday. Asked whether this was the last time he would cast a ballot for himself, the vice president smiled mischievously and said, "No, I don't think so."
Andrew M. Cuomo: If Clinton and Biden stay out, the governor of New York starts the 2016 race as the front-runner. Cuomo has a lot going for him as a national candidate: (1) he has demonstrated an ability to raise lots and lots of money; (2) he has a golden last name in American politics; and (3) he shepherded New York's same-sex marriage bill to passage in the legislature.
Martin O'Malley: Maryland's governor is, from all indications, the most "in" of any of the people on this list when it comes to 2016. Working for O'Malley is his record governing perhaps the most liberal state in the country, a top-tier (and experienced) consulting team and his own political acumen.
Kirsten Gillibrand, above/Amy Klobuchar/Elizabeth Warren: If Clinton doesn't run, there will be an open spot for a woman in the field. Gillibrand, who filled Clinton's former seat in the Senate, seems the most ambitious of the trio mentioned above and could theoretically raise the sort of money she would need to be viable. Would she run if Cuomo, her mentor, ran? Probably not. Warren, who was elected to the Senate from Massachusetts on Tuesday, seems uninterested in running for president, at least according to her political people, but she is a rock star to the liberal left and, as she demonstrated in her Senate race, she can raise money like few other people in the party. Klobuchar isn't a household name nationally, but everything the senator from Minnesota has done in her political career suggests she could make the leap.