The 2012 presidential election is already old news.
President Obama won, Mitt Romney went to Disney World, and Republicans are currently in the throes of a philosophical intraparty conflict over the future and identity of the GOP.
But in the modern era of eternal campaigning, perpetual crises, and the 24-hour news cycle, potential 2016 contenders are already laying the foundations for later runs, particularly on the Republican side.
Here are the most likely candidates for both parties.
Before discussing the Democratic contenders, it is worth noting that the composition of the 2016 Democratic primary is almost entirely predicated on whether Hillary Clinton runs. If she does decide to run, many of the other possible nominees will probably withhold their bids.
1. Hillary Clinton: The former First Lady, senator, and current Secretary of State is 2016's most obvious contender. Though she has consistently denied considering another attempt at the presidency, given her enormous popularity and imminent departure from the Obama administration her actions are nevertheless being closely scrutinized by many on the left. If she does decide to run, many hopefuls will have to wait until 2020 or beyond, but if she drops out the field will open considerably.
Her tenure at State has been largely successful. Clinton is the most-traveled Secretary of State in history and recently brokered a crucial ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Add these victories to the fact that her husband Bill is one of the most popular modern presidents and a Hillary run looks increasingly likely.
Plus, The Onion is already calling it for Hillary, and you cannot argue with that.
2. Joe Biden: After placing his vote in 2012, Vice President Biden, responding to a reporter's question, said it was not the last time he'd be voting for himself, instigating immediate 2016 speculation.
For all the criticisms levied at Biden for being gaffe-prone and goofy, he is nevertheless an adroit politician with strong appeal to white blue-collar workers and Catholics. However, in 2008 Republican presidential nominee John McCain, at 72, was criticized as being too old. In 2016, Biden will be 74.
3. Rahm Emanuel: The current Mayor of Chicago has an impressive resume, including stints representing a north Chicago district in the House and as Obama's chief of staff. This acerbic Chicagoan also got his start working in the Clinton White House.
He is, however, extremely loyal to the Clinton clan, so if Hillary does decide to run Emanuel will likely continue running Chicago instead.
Other Possibilities: Elizabeth Warren, Antonio Villaraigosa, Julian Castro, John Hickenlooper, Deval Patrick
Unlikely: Jerry Brown, John Kerry, and Cory Booker
Unlike their counterparts on the left, Republicans have a deep bench of potential nominees. Because covering all of them is beyond the scope of this essay, only the most likely ones are considered here.
1. Marco Rubio: Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has wasted no time laying the foundations for a 2016 bid. With the Republican Party in a state of existential uncertainty and struggling with a leadership vacuum, many are flocking to Rubio as the party's de facto head, aside for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). He also made an early stop in Iowa and has been maintaining a strong profile in the national media.
But that is all secondary to the GOP's need to tap into the Latino vote, and Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is the epitome of what Republicans need in order to start chipping away at the monolithic minority-Democrat voting relationship.
2. Paul Ryan: Ryan, for better or for worse, is considered one of the party's intellectual leaders. The influence of his economic views cannot be overstated and the 2012 election, though resulting in a loss for the Wisconsin representative, afforded him tremendous national attention. Ryan will likely be an early and popular choice for Republicans in 2016, though the bitter taste of the 2012 defeat and the necessity for Republicans to appeal to minorities puts Ryan at a comparative disadvantage.
3. Chris Christie: Many were hoping for a Christie presidential run in 2012, or at least a VP nod. But Christie's absence on the GOP ticket did not prevent him from making an impact in 2012 through a crucial keynote speaking slot at the Republican National Convention (RNC) and his bipartisan efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, even though he was often viciously criticized by his own party for supposedly bolstering President Obama's image.
Christie is strong among northern moderates and anti-labor, but big questions surround his appeal to Evangelicals and social conservatives.
Other Possibilities: Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul
Unlikely: Mitch Daniels, Rick Perry, Nikki Haley
Prediction: Clinton/Castro vs. Rubio/Paul
The Democrats will put up a powerful and historic ticket linking the women and Latino votes. The GOP will counter with a ticket that should get sizable support from Latinos and libertarians.
This is a very belated fifth and final installment in my five-piece series "2012 Election Reflections." Previous entries include "The New 113th Congress May Be the Worst in History," "2016 Presidential Candidates: How Ryan, Rubio, and Christie Could Change the GOP," "6 Simple Reasons Why Barack Obama Won and Mitt Romney Lost," and "When This Is All Over, Everyone Should Make a Concerted Effort to Return to Civility."