SIOUX CITY | The dust has barely settled on the 2012 presidential campaign, but politicos are already thinking ahead to 2016. President Obama will be leaving office and the two major political parties will have open races to pick a nominee.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made an appearance just two weeks after the election in Iowa, which has the first caucus in the presidential candidate selection system.

On Dec. 6, Hillary Clinton, the former first lady and a 2008 Democratic candidate, laughed off questions about her interest in the 2016 race.

Repeating an exercise from four years ago, the Journal surveyed Republican and Democratic party leaders from Northwest Iowa to see who they favored in 2016. The results were a mix of old guard candidates and new faces.

Rubio and Clinton emerged as the favorites with the most points after the party leaders gave their top 3 choices. Notably missing, however, was former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, considered by many national pundits as a GOP frontrunner.

University of Iowa Political Science Professor Tim Hagle said Bush is perceived as "an establishment or too moderate" candidate, which turns off some Republicans.

Hagle he wasn't surprised by the love for Clinton or Rubio.

"(Rubio) is a person who a lot of Republicans feel comfortable with... He is young, but he'll have another four years of experience," Hagle said.

Plymouth County Democratic Party Chairman Jon Neunaber had Clinton as his top pick.

"There are still a lot of people out there, especially women, who would like to see a woman president in their lifetime," said Neunaber.

Ida County Republican Party Chairwoman Rachel Law was one of six party leaders who had Rubio as their top preference, making him the runaway pick.

"I feel he can reach out to a more diverse group of people to get away from the stereotype that republicans have," Law said.

Among Republicans, two men who factored heavily in the 2012 contest came in behind Rubio.

Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan received  the second most points and former presidential candidate Rick Santorum was third. After those three, there was considerable drop off to candidates such as Chris Christie, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann.

Coming in at second place among Democratic candidates was Elizabeth Warren, the senator-elect from Massachusetts. She was followed by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"We would have a better chance of winning the White House with a new crop of people," said O'Brien County Democratic Party Chairwoman Kim Weaver.

Northwest Iowa Democrats also liked Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and vice president Joe Biden, although Biden wasn't mentioned as the top choice by any of the respondents. Hagle said he doesn't envision Biden having legs to do well in 2016.

Overall, Democratic leaders named 14 people, while Republicans pointed to 11.

Drake University Political Science Professor Dennis Goldford cautioned observers from putting much stock in the top picks from county party chairs this early in the process.

"This is just rank speculation, based overwhelmingly on name recognition," he said.


1. Former First Lady Hillary Clinton

Ida County Chairman Wally Johnson: "I also worked with Hillary during the (2008) election and found her to be the most intelligent, with great common-sense diplomacy."

2. Elizabeth Warren, senator elect from Massachusetts

Crawford County Chairman Martin Peterson: "She might be that first woman. She gave a great speech at the (September) Democratic National Convention."

3. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Woodbury County Chairman Greg Guelcher: "He fits the right age demographic (55 years old), he's a charismatic speaker and arguably handsome. His handling of Hurricane Sandy recently speaks well of him and his leadership capabilities."

4. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley

Clay County Chairman Justin McCormick: "O'Malley has been a champion for education and social issues in the state of Maryland and has shown strong leadership in his efforts to balance Maryland's budget."

5. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio

Cherokee County Chairman Terry Miles: "Proof that a liberal progressive can gain the support of all the people."

6. Vice president Joe Biden

Many party leaders doubted Biden could win the 2016 nomination, since he would be 74 in 2016 and has a penchant for controversial comments.

Others mentioned, in voting order: Tim Kaine, senator-elect from Virginia, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer, U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.


1. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Cherokee County Chairman Mark Leeds: "I hope he can stand up against the elite Republicans. I believe any candidate that stands on the grassroot conservatism can win the election."

2. U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Sac County Chairman Chris Mason: "Paul Ryan is the author of the House budget that offers a true approach to solving our massive deficit while making manageable reforms to social programs and entitlements."

3. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum

Lyon County Chairman Cody Hoefert: Santorum is "a strong conservative with national network developed to tap into and build upon with a track record of getting things done."

4. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

Sioux County Chairman Mark Lundberg: "He espouses a lot of the conservative principles that people are looking for."

5. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

Monona County Chairwoman Tammy Bramley: "She has the experience to have that job and I think it would be great to have a woman as president."

6. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

Sac County Chairman Chris Mason: Christie's frequent blunt nature is "refreshing to voters who are tired of the Washington canned responses and lip service."

Others mentioned, in voting order: South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, 2012 presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.