It may be a little bit early to focus too much attention on 2016, as some, even on this site, have pointed out. We have some extremely important work ahead for us in 2014.
However, there's something about 2016 that makes that election unique in modern American political history. It could end up being one of the most groundbreaking and fascinating presidential elections in a long, long time.
Not only will there be no incumbent president, but there is no clear Republican frontrunner for the nomination. That last part may not sound like that big of a deal. However, when you consider that there was a Republican frontrunner who won that party's nomination every presidential election year from 2012 going back to 1968, what will be amazing is whether a new frontrunner does emerge and who that might be. Meanwhile, there is none.
Since 1968, the Republicans have had a clear frontrunner and have nominated that frontrunner as their nominee in every presidential election. In 1968, Richard Nixon* became the prohibitive favorite for the Republican nomination after “reinventing” himself while in political exile for eight years. And he was the obvious frontrunner for the GOP nod as an incumbent in 1972. In 1976, the incumbent Gerald Ford became the prohibitive favorite for the GOP nod, despite a spirited campaign by Ronald Reagan. In 1980, the frontrunner was the 1976 GOP runner-up, Ronald Reagan, who was the frontrunner as incumbent in 1984. In 1988, the “heir apparent” and frontrunner was George Herbert Walker Bush. In 1992, as the incumbent, he, again, was the frontrunner for the nomination and won it. In 1976, longtime Republican politician Bob Dole became the frontrunner and won the nomination. In 2000, George Walker Bush, who had led in the polls for both the nomination and for the White House for years before any primary election, entered the primary campaign as the clear frontrunner and won. And again in 2004. In 2008, John McCain became the frontrunner by virtue of having been the also-ran to the incumbent Republican President (in the 2000 Republican primaries). And Mitt Romney, the also-ran to McCain in 2008, entered the election as the Republcan frontrunner (though he had a lot of ups and downs once the campaign got into gear, starting as the frontrunner, then sharing frontrunner status, on and off, with the likes of a variety of people, such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newton LeRoy Gingrich and even Rick Santorum for a while, but Romney entered the campaign as the favorite and was able to take on every new opponent, one-at-a-time in state after state and secure the nomination).
Unless something unforeseen happens between now and January of 2016, it seems likely that Republicans could be facing the first truly “open” race for the nomination since either Richard Nixon in 1968* or Barry Goldwater in 1964.
There are currently a lot of names being bandied about as far as potential Republican candidates, but nobody, not even the losing 2012 vice presidential Republican nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan, could be considered a frontrunner at this point.
Of course, it's also possible that, should Hillary Clinton and Vice President Biden decide not to enter the race, that Democrats might end up with no frontrunner, as well. Which would make 2016 the first presidential contest with no Republican nor Democratic frontrunner since...1928(?)
It will be interesting to see how the Republican Party fares, after a couple of shellackings in presidential races, with nobody the party can consider its rightful heir, in terms of the presidential nomination. The party has tended to like to nominate frontrunners.
A couple of days ago, kos published a story about how Hillary Clinton would be the clear favorite, at least for the Democratic nomination, should she decide to run in 2016. He even cited polls showing her competitive in a general election in states like Texas and Kentucky, of all places. (Here's a link:http://www.dailykos.com/...)
So, while Hillary seems like the prohibitive favorite to win the Democratic nomination should she run in 2016, the corrollary to that is that the Republicans not only have no clear favorite for a general election campaign, they do not even have, at this point in time, a favorite for the nomination...for the first time in more than 44 years. That, to me, points to what is likely to be a very interesting presidential campaign.
The last time the Republicans had a wide-open campaign for the nomination, with no clear frontrunner was...the 1960's.
(* The argument could be made that George Romney was the frontrunner for the 1968 nomination, by virtue of a lead in the polls he had at the start of the campaign, but Nixon actually entered the race in a lot better shape than many had thought, having successfully reinvented his public image and having lined up key endorsements and financial support entering the campaign. If you think Romney was the favorite, then 2016 will be the first without a Republican frontrunner since 1968, not 1964.)