Just as Republican speakers were doing in Tampa last week, ambitious Democrats in Charlotte have been auditioning for 2016. Unlike the Republicans, they know the nomination will be open four years from now. It was uncomfortably blatant at the GOP convention because it seemed to be saying that we don't think Romney can win, so start thinking about me for the next time.
Nowhere was that more obvious than in the keynote speech by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who spent most of his time talking about his mother – whose advice to put respect ahead of love seemed to contradict the message Ann Romney had just so effectively delivered – and his own record as governor. Mitt Romney seemed almost like an afterthought.
As of right now the Democrats' frontrunner for 2016 was more than 9,000 miles away from Charlotte in East Timor as her husband spoke to the convention. The secretary of state (along with defense and treasury) traditionally stays above the political fray and away from the campaign, but Hillary Clinton will be very much on the mind of many delegates this week. And if she wasn't her husband reminded delegates of what a great job she's doing.
She has said she is retiring at the end of this term and looks forward to leaving politics – though not for how long. After Obama she remains the country's most popular Democrat. In 2016 she will be 69 years old by election day.
The former president told NBC News this week, "We're not kids anymore. I don't have any idea if she'll ever run again. She says she won't."
Vice presidents are usually the heir apparent, but Joe Biden will be 74 by then and a presidential run at that age is highly unlikely.
Some of the others to watch are New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker, convention keynote speaker San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, Maryland Gov Martin O'Malley,
But you could find even more of the wannabes far from the convention podium in a tent in the parking lot of a suburban Charlotte hotel having breakfast with the Iowa delegation. They know the Hawkeye state's first-in-then-nation presidential caucus can make or break the ambitions of the most ambitious politician, and it's never too early to begin courting the state's party leaders.
Among those who've dropped by have been Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Virginia Sen. Mark R. Warner, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in addition to Booker and O'Malley, the Washington Post reported.