By JAMES MAZARAKIS

After a rather wacky hand of cards in 2012, Democrats and Republicans still look ahead to 2016 with some grasp of optimism.

16 months ago, we saw Republican and former Senator Mitt Romney challenge Barack Obama’s upcoming term in office of the President of the United States. It was a close match, with Obama earning 51 percent of the vote and 332 electoral votes against Romney’s 47 percent and 206 electoral votes. This was less decisive than Obama’s first election in 2008, where he won 53 percent.

This time, Obama will not be able to run for a third term - meaning someone new has to step up to the podium. And since Romney and John McCain have not expressed interest in running again, the Republicans have a job to do as well.

No bids have officially been made, but there are many people of interest to keep an eye out in the next few years before the election; for as we have seen in the last few decades, it only takes one person to make an entire presidential reign obsolete or profound.

Hillary Clinton (D)

Perhaps the most popular candidate from either party is Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Senator, Secretary of State, and Lady of the House. After losing the bid to run for president in 2008, she claimed that she wanted to "go be a kindergarten teacher and never have to hold hands on the Hill again" (CNN). This proved untrue, as she proceeded in accepting her nomination as Secretary of State.

What’s Going For Her: She is a progressive, stone-skinned politician with experience. If elected, she would be the first female president ever - many see this in the same light as Obama’s race in 2008; her perspective on social policy will bring hope for a half of the nation that has never been truly understood. She is also known, like her husband Bill, to be tough and have a thick skin. She does not tolerate unnecessary criticism and holds herself well in debates. [FACT CHECK]

What Isn’t: Her past. Contributing to her loss in 2008 was her vote to enter Iraq, for which she was tagged as a war hawk. As secretary of state, she holds a lot of responsibility for involvement in Syria prior to her resignation in February 2013; she also took heavy blame for the infamous Benghazi affair. The Huffington Post, however, points out her biggest weakness lies in her record with Wall Street.

“Is someone who sat on the rabidly anti-union board of Walmart for six years the right person to restore workers' rights?” Krystal Ball, spokesperson at MSNBC points out. “Is someone who recently took $400,000 to give two speeches at Goldman Sachs the person we need to wrest control of the asylum back from the banking inmates?”

Her Chances: Promising. In polls, Clinton is faring well even in often-red swing states like Ohio, where she leads over Representative Paul Ryan by 9 points (HuffPo).

Paul Ryan (R)

We remember Paul Ryan from 2012, running alongside Mitt Romney to be Vice President. He has not declared his candidacy for 2016, but he is “keeping his options open” (New York Daily). He is known to be a supporter of the Tea Party and a vocal speaker for conservative Republicans in the House.

What’s Going For Him: Opportunity. He has plenty of time to prove himself before both Democrats and Republicans. He has heavy experience campaigning and brings “a sunny youthfulness” to the table (Christian Science Monitor). He will also likely have the endorsement of former candidate, Mitt Romney, who chose him to be his vice presidential candidate.

What’s Not: Hard to say, because even after running for vice president, we are not sure on his political personality. He has been flexible on some accounts - Immigration reform being one - which hurts him in the eyes of the Republicans and the vice for Democrats. Still, he is an ardent conservative with the Tea Party behind his back, which does not help him win the liberal vote.

His Chances: Wild card. It depends on who else runs, and what he does in the future. He has changed his opinions before - He indicated his support of same-sex couples to adopt children in 2013 after voting against that exact bill in D.C., 1999. If he continues this trend, he may have a chance to appeal to the Democrats.

Side note: Only one president in U.S. History - James Garfield - has ever moved directly from the House of Representatives to the White House.

Joe Biden (D)

Vice President Joe Biden says “[there is] no obvious reason... why I think I should not run” in 2016. The 71-Year-Old politician has ran twice before, and he will not do it without his foolhardy humor.

“[There are] a lot of reasons to run... but [there is] one overwhelming reason not to... I’d like to get that [Corvette] Z06 from 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds. 3.4 seconds! You tack that sucker up to six grand [RPMs] and it comes out of the hole like a bullet, man!”

Luckily, he is equally capable of putting on his serious look. He has been in government for decades and continues to play a vital role in Obama’s administration. But can he prove himself to be the Democratic Candidate in 2016?

What’s Going For Him: Security. Unlike Hillary, he has a relatively clean record in terms of business - he has no striking scandals or bad votes that would make his party skeptical. On the contrary, he would be very likely to continue the Obama legacy and follow his policies, as the two worked closely on certain issues like gun control.

What’s Not: The “click.” He might be a good candidate, but Democratic voters need a sign that he will surely guide them to a better America. He will also suffer blows from the Democratic anti-Obama voters, who may fear that he will continue the same administration that has been going on for years.

His chances: Not high enough. Even with Clinton’s flaws, he has a lot to live up to. Gallup polls put him at an approval rating of 46 percent, an unpromising number compared to Hillary’s 59. Still, if he wants the seat, he is certainly capable of improving his image in the next few years before the election.

Marco Rubio (R)

One Republican possible candidate with high chances may be buried by the press in the coming months, but it is important to look at what gives him momentum.

Of course, the Senator hasn’t even had a chance to determine whether he is content with his seat in Florida. “I really can't tell you today where I'll be,” he told Tampa Bay Times, “a lot can change between now and then."

What’s Going For Him: Opportunity, and posture. Preliminary exposure to presidential duties have begun; he has made a trip to Asia and is currently writing his second book. Politics aside, he is a promising communicator, and it is fair to say he is one of the most rational, even-handed Republican characters in politics.

What’s Not: The Media. MSNBC posted an article in December titled “Whatever happened to Marco Rubio?” The article attributed his loss in popularity to political struggles related to Chris Christie. But in the past, we have seen political candidates ignored until they win the bid.

Jonathan Bernstein writes in his American Prospect article that “plenty of reporters fell for a myth that [Mitt Romney] couldn’t possibly win [in 2012] because of health-care reform, or because he couldn’t crack a ceiling that never existed, or some other reason.”

If he remains inactive, or if the press happens to veer away from this candidate, he may not get the attention he has the potential to get.

Why Now?

It is pretty soon to be talking about who might have a chance to be president. But the parties must plan carefully if they wish their endeavors to be taken seriously in the next few years. This election will be pivotal. One of three things can happen:

(1) A Democrat wins, securing the party for leadership for one, perhaps two, terms. This would likely result in a wave of Democratic policy that may push without strong challenge.

(2) A Republican wins, changing the tide we see today, where the Republicans have been groveling. As with our last three presidents, we can expect the dismantling of Obama’s policies, bit by bit.

(3) Democrats? Republicans? They are both faltering in their own way. The BBC posted in an infographic that predicts the chances of a third-party candidate carrying the seat in eight years’ time to be 25 to one. There were not always Democrats and Republicans, but it is arguable whether they are more likely to bend or break. Time will tell what is possible.

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