The Democrats have two possible 2016 candidates with the potential to overwhelm the field, but it's quite possible neither will run. And it's also quite possible that one of them could run, but not overwhelm the field.
The two big fish:
- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Why does the Secretary of State rank ahead of the Vice President? Let me count the ways ... the Clinton name, the prior near-successful presidential candidacy, the fact that Joe Biden is ... well ... Joe Biden.
- Vice President Joe Biden. He's run for president before, too, but not very successfully. He'll be 73. His tendency to say goofy things is legendary. That being said, he'll be the Vice President, and if he wants to run, that's worth a lot.
But neither one might run. And, frankly, if Biden runs he won't scare too many candidates off the field. So ... all the lesser fish:
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York. His father was famous for almost deciding to run, and then deciding not to. [But, if you're wavering at all, you're better off not running, since you're likely to lose ... so Mario Cuomo probably made the right call each time.] The governor of New York automatically gets some prominence, but Cuomo hasn't made much of a national impact compared to his GOP counterpart in New Jersey. But in terms of being able to organize a campaign and raise money, Cuomo would be strong.
- Gov. Martin O'Malley, Maryland. O'Malley gets a lot of buzz despite not being widely known, perhaps a sign of respect for his political skills and his presence near the D.C. Beltway. He also seems very interested in a run. He could emerge as a "default" frontrunner, in the same way the Bill Clinton emerged in 1992.
- Gov. Deval Patrick, Massachusetts. As with Cuomo, he'll get some mentions just because of the position he holds. He is also known to be close to President Obama. But he doesn't get much national buzz beyond that.
- Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. The ambition is there ... and with some to spare. Would he make a leap to a presidential run? Maybe. Would his reputation as the ultimate tough-guy politico help or hurt? Probably hurt.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota. It all starts with the Iowa caucuses, and Klobuchar is wildly popular in neighboring Minnesota, and she has strong political skills. But her national profile is next to zero despite six years in the Senate.
- Sen. Mark Warner and Sen.-Elect Tim Kaine, Virginia. Kaine first gained prominence as Warner's lieutenant governor, but now they are both considered rising stars. Warner's Romney-like wealth and financial background might be a negative in a Democratic primary, so Kaine may be more likely to succeed on the national stage. But he's always been the junior partner. The duo can certainly claim credit for helping turn Virginia toward the Democratic column.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The former Kansas governor will be the public face of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) for the next four years. How the public reacts will go a long way toward determining if she could be a serious candidate.
- Sen.-Elect Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts. Many liberal activists consider Warren the "next Obama," but she didn't set the world ablaze in her 2012 Senate race, and she has some baggage related to claiming herself to be Native American that other voters might not brush off as easily as Bay State voters did.
- Gov. Brian Schweitzer, Montana. The Democrats don't do well in the mountain states at the presidential level, but in the last two elections, they didn't need to. Schweitzer has no real national profile, but he is apparently interested in making the race.
- Mayor Cory Booker, Newark, New Jersey. Booker gets some mentions, but he is more likely to challenge Gov. Chris Christie in 2013. If he wins that race, he'll be a major rising star, but 2016 is not likely to be the year to try to cash in.