WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The dust has barely settled from the 2012 presidential campaign, and already there is talk about who might run for president in four years, when both Democrats and Republicans will be searching for a nominee.
From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - a Democrat who ran a tough primary battle against eventual President Barack Obama in 2008 - to Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential nominee this year, both parties appear to have a deep bench from which to draw candidates to compete for the chance to succeed Obama in 2016.
Here is a look at some of those who could be in the running during the next presidential election cycle.
Bush, 59, is a popular former governor of the politically divided state of Florida who opted not to run in 2012. He will again face pressure from party activists to seek the White House in 2016. Many in the party believe he could have given Obama a better contest than Mitt Romney did this year.
But Bush might be reluctant to chase the presidency, in part because of his surname. He is the brother of former President George W. Bush and the son of former President George H.W. Bush.
Jeb Bush would have to decide whether a third Bush could get elected - his brother left office amid historically low popularity ratings - or whether he would face voter fatigue with the Bush name.
Jeb Bush, whose wife was born in Mexico, would have an easier time reaching out to increasingly potent Hispanic voters than the failed 2012 nominee, Mitt Romney. He has warned Republicans they must reach out to engage minority voters.
“Our demographics are changing and we have to change not necessarily our core beliefs, but ... the tone of our message and the message and the intensity of it, for sure,” Bush told NBC’s “Meet The Press” in August.
An education expert, Bush chairs an education organization called the Foundation for Florida’s Future. He showed his loyalty to the party by actively campaigning for Romney in Florida.
Another Floridian, Senator Marco Rubio, got tongues wagging by scheduling a speaking engagement in the early voting state of Iowa on November 17, just 11 days after the election. The 41-year-old Cuban-American is a fresh face in the Republican Party and has built a solid reputation among conservatives by emphasizing America’s founding principles and embracing the Tea Party movement. He was a keynote speaker at the Republican National Convention in Tampa and might have gotten more attention had he not spoken just before actor Clint Eastwood’s unusual appearance, when he lectured an imaginary Obama as if the president were sitting in an empty chair.
In his speech, Rubio emphasized his modest upbringing. “My dad was a bartender. My mom was a cashier, a maid and a stock clerk at K-Mart. They never made it big. They were never rich. And yet they were successful, because just a few decades removed from hopelessness, they made possible for us all the things that had been impossible for them,” he said.
Rubio would have the ability to engage Hispanic voters. The question that he will face in 2016, just as in 2012, is whether he is experienced enough to serve as president.
He currently sits on two important Senate committees, intelligence and foreign relations. A minor controversy broke out over his biography last year when The Washington Post reported his parents did not flee Fidel Castro’s Cuba in 1959 as he had stated but left in 1956, before Castro seized power.
Representative Ryan, 42, was Romney’s vice presidential running mate and as such would have an inside track in seeking the Republican presidential nomination should he choose to do so. As chairman of the powerful House Budget Committee, he is beloved by many conservatives for pushing a budget plan that would lead to deep cuts in government spending.
A Wisconsin native, he would have the potential of winning that traditionally Democratic state, although his presence on Romney’s ticket did not help deliver Wisconsin for Romney.
Some obstacles for Ryan: It is not easy for a member of the House of Representatives to win the presidency and he has little experience outside Washington. He would also face criticism over his budget plan and how it would overhaul the Medicare health insurance plan for seniors, an easy target for Democrats in 2012. He used part of his convention speech in Tampa to defend himself. “We have responsibilities, one to another - we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves,” he said. He held his own in a debate against Vice President Joe Biden, despite lacking the Democrat’s foreign policy expertise.
Christie, 50, is the Republican governor of a Democratic state, New Jersey. Opting not to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, he was on Romney’s vice presidential short list but was passed over in favor of Ryan. He is one of the most skilled Republican speakers in the national picture and was a popular surrogate for Romney on the campaign trail. To try to get a handle on New Jersey’s budget woes, he has led an effort for deep cuts in state spending, making him a popular figure in the party. But he is overweight to the point where he would face health questions should he decide to run.
Late in the 2012 campaign, Christie raised Republican eyebrows with his warm words of praise for Obama for his handling of Hurricane Sandy. Then, Christie refused overtures from the Romney campaign to join the candidate in nearby Pennsylvania, choosing instead to remain in New Jersey and lead efforts to recover from the killer storm. Some Romney loyalists complained about this, but Republican strategist Alice Stewart said it should not damage him.
“When you’re in a crisis situation like that, and you’re the leader of the state, and doing everything you can to restore power and water and put food in the hands of your citizens that Gov. Christie cares so much about, politics goes out the window,” she said. Still, Christie could face negative attack ads over his bear hug of Obama from other Republicans in the party’s presidential primary contest should he run. And he may face a tough fight for re-election in New Jersey next year.
Louisiana Governor Jindal, 41, is an Indian-American who could help the Republican Party extend its appeal beyond whites. He is well-liked by conservatives for education reforms he put in place in Louisiana, and he received high marks for his handling of the 2010 BP oil spill that shattered fishing communities on the Gulf coast. He was on Romney’s vice presidential running mate list. But when given a big opportunity on the national stage, he was thought to have flubbed the chance when he delivered the Republican response to Obama’s 2009 speech to a joint session of Congress.
Rice, who will be 58 on November 14, is a former secretary of state and national security adviser for Republican President George W. Bush. Her name pops up on potential candidates’ lists despite regular denials of political intentions. She received a prominent speaking role at the Tampa convention and gave one of the more memorable speeches. An African-American, Rice was raised during the segregation era in Alabama.
When she left Washington, Rice returned to a teaching position at Stanford University, and was one of the first two women to be granted membership to formerly male-only Augusta National Golf Club, which holds the annual Masters tournament. As a close confidante of Bush, she has held the levers of power. She would face questions about her tenure in the Bush administration when the United States invaded Iraq over false charges that it possessed weapons of mass destruction.
Other Republicans who might want to make a move in 2016 include New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 65, heads a lengthy list of potential Democratic candidates to succeed Obama in four years. The wife of former President Bill Clinton has frequently ruled out a run, but many Democrats think the allure of becoming the first female president might entice her into the race. She ran in 2008 but was out-maneuvered by Obama and lost after a bitter primary battle.
She has been a loyal cabinet official for Obama and her husband gave perhaps the single most significant speech at the Democratic National Convention, when he staunchly defended Obama’s handling of the U.S. economy. This puts Obama in the Clintons’ debt. Hillary Clinton has been a steady hand at foreign policy with her indefatigable overseas travel schedule.
If she runs, she could face questions about how the State Department handled the deadly September 11 attack by Libyan militants on the U.S. mission in Benghazi. There have been accusations that a request for greater security for the U.S. mission were ignored.
The big question of 2016 will be whether Vice President Joe Biden, who will be 70 soon, tries to succeed his boss. He has not ruled out a run. When he voted in the presidential election on Tuesday, a reporter asked him if this was the last time he would cast a ballot for himself. “No, I don’t think so,” Biden replied. As a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he is a foreign policy expert.
But Biden was a bull in a china shop during the 2012 campaign. In one speech in the former slave state of Virginia, Biden told a crowd Romney and his Republicans want to “put ya’ll back in chains.” His debate with Paul Ryan was distinguished by frequent derisive smiles and sarcastic laughter by Biden. When Obama’s healthcare overhaul was signed into law, Biden could be heard over an open mic muttering to the president that this was a “big (expletive) deal.”
Obama has stuck by his No. 2 loyally through the gaffes, and Biden has returned the favor. “Folks, I’ve watched him,” Biden said of Obama at the Democratic convention. “He never wavers. He steps up. He asks the same thing over and over again: How is this going to work for ordinary families? Will it help them? And because of the decisions he’s made, and the strength the American people have demonstrated every day, America has turned the corner.” The potential of an intra-party battle between Clinton and Biden appeals to political reporters. But a more likely scenario would see Biden giving way to Clinton and perhaps serving as her secretary of state should she win.
O‘Malley, 49, the liberal governor of Maryland, is getting national attention from his perch as the current chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. He is believed to have held national ambitions for some time. He was given a prime-time speaking slot at the Democratic convention in Charlotte in which he espoused liberal ideals. “As we search for common ground and the way forward together, let’s ask one another - let’s ask the leaders in the Republican Party - without any anger, meanness or fear: How much less, do you really think, would be good for our country? How much less education would be good for our children? How many hungry American kids can we no longer afford to feed?”
He has been a top advocate for legalizing same-sex marriage, which Maryland voters approved in the November 6 election. And he has referred to illegal immigrants as “new Americans.” Should Clinton or Biden fall to the wayside, O‘Malley might get the attention of the Democratic left during the party’s primary battle.
Warner, 57, a senator from Virginia, harbored presidential ambitions in 2008 but ultimately opted not to run. A multimillionaire from the telecom industry, Warner served a term as governor of Virginia and helped boost the state’s economy.
Known as a moderate Democrat, Warner is in his first term in the Senate and there has been some talk he might want to run again for the governor’s seat in his home state. He got attention as a possible 2016 presidential candidate when he addressed delegates from the early voting state of Iowa at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte
Cuomo, 54, the governor of New York, has been keeping a relatively low profile. He spent little time at the Democratic convention and has batted away questions about any presidential ambitions. Whether he ran or not would probably depend on whether fellow New Yorker Hillary Clinton decided to seek the nomination since both would tap into the same fund-raising sources. With an approval rating in New York that crested above 70 percent this spring, Cuomo is among the most popular leaders in the Democratic Party. His championing of same-sex marriage in New York makes him a favorite of progressives.
He built a reputation of fiscal responsibility while working with a Republican legislature, making him an attractive voice for voters yearning for across-the-aisle success stories. As a Catholic and Italian-American, Cuomo, like Biden, he could be a strong surrogate for the president among conservative Democrats in the Rust Belt.
Other Democrats who might consider a run include Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer.
Reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Todd Eastham