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Rothenberg: The 2016 Presidential Race Begins Today

Molly Riley/UPI
After recent work on congressional deals, Biden looks like a more serious contender in 2016, if he chooses to run.

It is far too early to handicap the 2016 Academy Awards, the 2016 World Series or the 2016 Summer Olympics. And yet, if you are a true political junkie, you may already be apoplectic that we aren’t yet knee-deep in discussions about the next presidential race.

While you have my pity if you are one of those people, it’s undeniably true that politicians being who and what they are, it is never too early to ponder about the next step of the political ladder. And for some, the White House is the only rung that really matters.

I remember in 2005 asking Robert Gibbs, then the press secretary for recently elected Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, whether, given the talk of a Draft Obama campaign, the freshman senator was mulling a presidential run in 2008.

Gibbs, whom I had known from his days at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, laughed at the absurdity of the question (I thought it silly, too, but wanted to make sure that I wasn’t missing something) and assured me that no, the just-elected senator had no intention of running, no matter what rumors or draft movements were floating around the Internet.

Obama understood where he ranked in the pecking order and was only starting to learn how things were done on Capitol Hill, Gibbs assured me, adding the obvious disclaimer that, of course, nobody knows what will happen down the road, but the freshman senator wasn’t considering anything as soon as 2008.

It wasn’t terribly long after that that Obama did start to look at a possible bid for the Democratic nomination, no matter how intimidating the probable candidacy of then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York looked.

I don’t believe, I should point out, that Gibbs had intentionally misled me. I believe that the freshman senator wasn’t seriously thinking about a presidential run when I asked.

But things can change quickly in Washington, D.C., and Democrats started whispering into the ear of the then-senator from Illinois that while 2008 wasn’t an ideal time for him to mount a presidential bid, it might turn out to be the best time. Who knows when another opportunity for a fresh face and political outsider will come along?

Open seats are difficult to resist, since they often seem enticingly winnable. That should make 2016 a tempting prize for presidential hopefuls on both sides of the aisle.

The Democratic side looks too easy to handicap, which probably means surprises are in store.

For different reasons, Clinton, now the outgoing secretary of State, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. are in a tier all their own, though they aren’t in an identical place within that tier.

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