The 2016 Democratic presidential field begins – and arguably ends – with Hillary Clinton. She dominates current polls of potential contenders, Democrat and Republican alike, and is one of the most popular politicians period. But what if she doesn't run? Or what if someone is crazy enough to take her on in a Democratic primary (sound familiar)?
Here's a list of potential contenders:
Vice President Joe Biden
The vice president is always going to top the list of potential rivals for Clinton, in part because vice presidents are always a default part of the mix and in part because he's run twice before. Biden's also been an active part of the Obama administration, unlike some veeps, utilizing his ties to the Senate to grease the wheels on issues like gun reform and budget battles, with varying degrees of effectiveness. But thanks to his over-the-top personality – a true old school, baby-kissing, back-slapping pol prone to verbal gaffes – he's been painted into a caricature that Americans may not accept in acommander-in-chief. Beyond that, his best bet to gain ground against Hillary would be a populist pitch and it's not entirely clear she won't be making that argument herself.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Speaking of populism, Warren is the progressive's choice for president. But the lead scourge of Wall Street and the banking industry has many flaws that frequently get overlooked. The rookie Massachusetts senator is not the greatest campaigner – she speaks from her head not her heart and her demeanor is more stilted than comfortable. But Warren brings joy to the left wing of the Democratic Party, which feels abandoned or mislead by President Barack Obama during his two-terms. But like Obama before her, it could just be that the progressives are ascribing more to the politician than they actually offer.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley
O'Malley plays in a band and is the real-life inspiration for one of the characters in HBO's "The Wire" – a white mayor of Baltimore. The Maryland governor's name gets put into the mix more because of his bald ambition, rather than any specific qualification or accomplishment. This is a politician who is putting himself out there. He's also moved to win progressive appeal, particularly on social issues. He was a driving force in getting the same-sex marriage law passed, campaigning heavily for it.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
New York's governor can deny he's interested in running for president in 2016 all he wants, but there's no doubt if Hillary Clinton wasn't in the mix he would be front and center. Albany has known since his arrival Cuomo's agenda was shaped by things that would make for a great presidential resume – same-sex marriage, balanced budgets, etc. His coyness now is probably the strongest indication that donors and politicos think a Clinton candidacy is inevitable.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper is a wild card. The Colorado governor would be a nice Western antidote for those sick of an East Coast candidate list. He's made bold moves on gun control in a pro-gun state, which is sure to win fans in the Democratic Party disappointed that Obama and other Dems have failed to achieve similar success in Washington. Hickenlooper – like his name – is also known for being a little quirky. He once described his lieutenant governor as a "rising sex star" at a news conference in front of dozens of children (a local paper noted it may have been an innocent mistake, as he often refers to his deputy as a "rising star.")