Even thinking about the 2016 presidential election right now seems a bit like putting out Christmas decorations on the 4th of July -- it'll make sense eventually, but it seems kind of silly in the meantime.
And yet, ridiculous or not, the race is on. Indeed, 2016 efforts didn't start minutes after President Obama won re-election; it actually started months before, most notably during the national conventions, when potential candidates seemed inordinately interested in chatting with delegates from Iowa and New Hampshire.
The difference is, now it's become more explicit. A friend jokingly asked me over the weekend whether likely candidates have already scheduled trips to Iowa, but the answer isn't a joke -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) will be in the Hawkeye State this weekend, headlining a birthday fundraiser for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R).
A week after the 2012 election wrapped up -- ballots are still being counted in some states -- there are already published polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Chris Cillizza published a piece "handicapping the 2016 presidential field" literally one day after Obama's victory.
All of this seems wildly excessive -- maybe the political world can consider at least some governing before investing energy in who'll be president in 2017? -- but Benjy Sarlin makes a compelling case that this is actually a highly relevant stage in the process.
Nothing shakes up a party like a presidential defeat. After months, even years, of striving to project a unified front behind their nominee, Republican leaders are suddenly free to test out new messages and positions that previously would have been heretical. These early forays into uncharted territory could bolster their standing within the GOP, but could just as easily backfire if the party base rebels.
Given this, like it or not, the 2016 positioning and posturing will be hard to avoid in the coming months. And if you think this period is irrelevant, keep in mind that Mitt Romney's "Let Detroit Go Bankrupt" op-ed ran exactly four years ago next week.