The Great Race for 2016

CHARLOTTE – Bless you, Jonathan Martin and Emily Shultheis, for starting the clock on the 2016 Democratic primary. Do not judge Politico. In less than two years, we’ll be discussing the various moves and hires Democrats are making in Iowa and New Hampshire. In less than three years, they’ll be onstage debating each other.

The takeaway from this piece is the takeaway I got when I asked delegates to look Forward. Everybody loves Hillary.

“I was for Barack in 2008 and I’ll wait on her,” said South Carolina Democratic Chairman Dick Harpootlian, an early Obama supporter who memorably compared Bill Clinton to the late GOP operative Lee Atwater in the last Democratic primary in South Carolina. “The only buzz I hear is Hillary.”

This was a practically universal sentiment. Delegates hadn’t much thought about 2016, so gripped were they with fear that Barack Obama could lose. (It’s a sound fear! Lose the presidency this time, and in 2016 either you’re running to replace a Republican who’s already moved the Supreme Court right, or you’re running against an economic recovery, and out of power until 2020 at least.) But when I mentioned the next primary, Hillary Clinton was the universal placeholder. After Gov. Deval Patrick’s Tuesday night speech, I heard just a little chatter about him. Less of that on Thursday, though. Who else does Politico put on the list?

Joe Biden. The power moves described in the Martin/Shultheis piece have Biden moving around Iowa’s players at his whim. But he’ll be 73 in 2016, and 74 after election day. We’re just talking about him to be nice, aren’t we?

Gov. Martin O’Malley. He began the week with a too-nuanced Sunday show hit that inspired every other reporter to ask Democrats if we were really “better off than we were four years ago.” He continued it with a call-and-response speech that got at most 71 percent of the stadium chanting along, and that the Heathers in the press stand compared unfavorably to Patrick’s.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar. She was everywhere – Women’s caucuses, delegate breakfasts, any dangerously empty-looking interview chairs – which gets her Mentioned in these stories. She’s up for re-election this year but lucked out when the Ron Paul-ified Minnesota GOP nominated one of their own to run against her.

Gov. John Hickenlooper. I don’t think many people took notice of his speech – he has an affable speaking style that informs but does not overwhelm. But he’s from Colorado, and in post-convention chats last night, he sounded like he’d at least considered it.

Sen. Mark Warner. Again? We went through this in 2006, when the Democrats’ narrow loss to George W. Bush convinced the pundit class that a Moderate would save the party. To believe in the Warner boomlet you have to believe that the party will lose in 2012 and become so depressed that it’s willing to embraces Bowles-Simpson-ism.