I'm of the same mindset as Salon's Alex Pareene: it's far, far too early to begin 2016 speculation. Political prognosticating is a dangerous game; it's hard to know what lies on the horizon several months from now, let alone several years. A few years ago a star governor of South Carolina seemed like a probable Republican candidate until he took a few too many hikes on the Appalachian trail. Or six years back, when the junior Illinois senator seemed like a far more likely Democratic candidate in 2012 or even 2016. Hell, we don't even know if the Republicans will have a competitive primary in 2016 or if Mitt Romney will gather the forces for a reelection bid.
I'm not sure every politician shares my wariness of long-term political forecasts. I received a pair of emails in my inbox yesterday afternoon alerting me of scheduled appearances by two hotshot Republicans in that harbinger of presidential campaigns, the Hawkeye State. Senator Rand Paul will headline the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's dinner in May and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will keynote the state Republican Party's Lincoln Dinner that same month. Paul's father is likely in the middle of his last presidential campaign, and many see the younger Kentucky senator as a possible libertarian replacement in future elections. He might have a bit more success than his father as well; he's less inclined to launch conspiratorial diatribes, and while he is enough of a libertarian to pick up his father's faithful, he's less of a strict ideologue and could appeal to segments of the Republican base who are alienated by Ron Paul's staunch anti-interventionist foreign policy. On the other side, Cuccinelli—a favorite of the social conservatives— was one of the AGs leading the charge to bring Obamacare before the Supreme Court. He's currently in the midst of a 2013 gubernatorial run. Should the Supreme Court's majority toss out the law and Cuccinelli win his tough Republican gubernatorial primary, the Virginian will be posed for a future national campaign.
There's nothing too unusual about either of their upcoming appearances. Iowa tends to hold an outsized role in politicians' imaginations thanks to its spot at the starting gate of presidential elections. Many a young politician has accepted plum speaking slots in Iowa only to never move forward toward a run for the executive spot. But the fact that both of these rising figures in the party are looking to develop Iowa connections could be a sign Republicans aren't confident that Romney will be the incumbent come 2016.