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The political news of the week is rightfully dedicated to the ongoing Supreme Court decisions on cases including SB1070 and the Affordable Care Act but one potential news story that has captivated me is still at least three years away from breaking.

Yes, the saga of a potential 2016 Hillary Clinton candidacy has crossed my mind numerous times since Hillary announced she would be resigning as Secretary of State after 2012.  Clinton has stated numerous times that she is done with politics but that hasn’t stopped the likes of former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and more notably, husband and former President Bill Clinton from speculating over the possibility of her going for the Presidency one last time.

But while the surrogates of Hillary have done most of the talking, Hillary hasn’t released any statements that completely close the door either.  The most definitive statement that she put out was:

I would like to come back to India and just wander around without the streets being closed,” she said during a speech in India last month. “I just want to get back to taking some deep breaths, feeling that there are other ways I can continue to serve.

Doesn’t exactly put an end to the ongoing speculation now, does it?  Nope, Hillary has mastered the politician’s creed by never stating your true desires until the right moment comes.

Now, let’s not confuse this.  I genuinely believe Hillary wants to take time off, as she has essentially been in the political limelight for the past twenty years.  A couple years to unwind and hit the speaker’s circuit could be the “relaxing” break she would need until she decides whether to run again.

Make no mistake about it, Hillary Clinton is the biggest name in the Democratic Party outside of Barack Obama and the number one “dream candidate” for Team Blue.  But there remain several ambitious people in the party that would love to challenge her.  Let’s take a look at the likely contenders.

Andrew Cuomo
Andrew Cuomo, the current Governor of New York (and popular I might add), is the closest thing the Democratic Party has to a rising star that’s in elected office.  Cuomo, the son of former New York Gov. Mario, is already carving out a legacy which includes the much-ballyhooed legalization of gay marriage in the Empire State.  But still, the Cuomos are on very good terms with the Clintons and I can’t see Andrew risking his political career on what could be a resounding loss.

Kirsten Gillibrand
The other New Yorker who could enter the race is current New York junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.  Gillibrand has become a leading Democratic voice in the Senate and is doing a fine job of getting her name out there.  However, back in March, Gillibrand did state that she would be “one of the first to ask Hillary to run in 2016” which seems to indicate she would defer to another Hillary campaign.  But if Hillary doesn’t run, I think we can assume Gillibrand would be a candidate who’d try to corner Hillary’s endorsement.

Martin O’Malley
Martin O’Malley, the current Governor of Maryland, is another oft-discussed candidate for the 2016 nomination.  O’Malley will be term-limited after his gubernatorial career ends in 2014 would be perfectly suited to start building his profile for 2016.  O’Malley, though, is a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton and would probably defer to her as well.  Still O’Malley could be in contention for the chairmanship of the Democratic National Committee as he has proven to be a party leader (current head of the Democratic Governors Association), so keep your eyes on him.

Joe Biden
Joe Biden is the oldest potential contender that is considered viable and hasn’t shown any dismissal of 2016 rumors.  The current Vice President has ran for the party nomination unsuccessfully twice but never has he had this good of a shot of being a favorite.  If Clinton runs, I think Biden wouldn’t be against challenging her but would likely not make a run.  The only way Biden has a really strong likelihood of winning is if Clinton doesn’t run.

Elizabeth Warren
Yes, the name that is continuing to sprout up as a Presidential candidate hasn’t even been elected to office yet (and will have to fight hard for it).  But if Clinton runs, would Warren jump ship?  She’d be 67 in 2016 and if Hillary were to not only win the nomination but the Presidency, Warren would be approaching 75 at the conclusion of a Clinton Presidency meaning that 2016 could be the one feasible time that Warren would be likely to run.  Warren might be the one person who could steal the base from Hillary as she is the ultimate star amongst progressives.  I wouldn’t dismiss a challenge from her and it could re-open the Obama-Clinton rift from 2008 as they would both vie for the endorsement of the 44th President.

As I’ve stated before, there is plenty of time before 2016 and I haven’t even discussed the candidacies of Brian Schweitzer, Russ Feingold, Mark Warner & Deval Patrick all of whom could be future candidates.

The candidacy of Hillary Clinton is the number one story of the still far away 2016 campaign and she could very well clear the field a la Al Gore in 2000 (with much respect to Bill Bradley).  In fact, I’d say (especially if Barack Obama wins his re-election bid this November) it is the biggest story to watch for from both parties.

It all just comes down to if Hillary is ready or retired.

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