As 2012 campaign nears finish, 2016 lurks

Associated Press Modified: November 4, 2012 at 2:01 pm •  Published: November 4, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Relieved to see the long, costly 2012 presidential race end? The 2016 campaign is closer than you think.

In some subtle ways, the jockeying to succeed Barack Obama or Mitt Romney already has begun.

Democrats know they'll need a new standard bearer regardless of whether Obama is re-elected, and there are plenty of possibilities — from Hillary Rodham Clinton to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Republicans hope Romney will be crowned the new GOP chief — but a crop of would-be candidates are at the ready in case he loses Tuesday, among them: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Already, rising star Republicans and Democrats have started making the circuit of political party dinners in Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire and South Carolina as they seek to introduce themselves to the early primary voters trusted to cull the field. Others are promoting autobiographies, often a clear indication of national aspirations. And some possible contenders have fired up political action committees to start refining donor lists and spread around contributions, an exercise in building goodwill that can pay off with a future endorsement.

In the coming weeks, tons of names will be floated as possible candidates, a list that will surely be longer than the roster of those who actually make the leap. Many are getting a taste of the presidential campaign trail as they make the rounds far from home as surrogates for this year's nominees, while making important contacts of their own.

For the Democrats, all eyes are on Clinton, the secretary of state who professes no interest but would have a clear advantage if she runs for the nomination that eluded her in 2008. Cuomo, too, is being talked about heavily in Democratic circles.

Maryland's Martin O'Malley appears to be laying groundwork and snagged a plumb gig in September, as the guest of Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin at his annual steak-fry fundraiser in the state that traditionally holds the kick-off caucuses. Other governors who may weigh bids: Colorado's John Hickenlooper, Massachusetts' Deval Patrick and Montana's Brian Schweitzer.

Keep an eye, too, on mayors like Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, who co-chaired the Democratic convention and headlined the Iowa Democratic Party's annual fall fundraising dinner in Des Moines last month, following a long line of would-be presidential candidates. And another potential: mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, who delivered the keynote address.

There's also always Joe Biden, the garrulous vice president. He would be almost 74 on Election Day 2016. But he's at least having fun with the prospect, joking in Florida last week with a voter about how the nation's new health law will be popular by then.

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