When Hillary Clinton dropped out of the 2008 race, she famously said that she had put "18 million cracks" in the "highest, hardest glass ceiling" and that her candidacy ensured that "the path will be a little easier next time" for a woman to run.
In the wake of her run, however, it seemed that there might not be a next woman anywhere close to following the path Clinton blazed. But, even if Clinton takes a pass on 2016, a strong stable of female candidates have emerged over the past several years, women who look ready to step into the void Clinton would leave and who could well emerge as serious contenders for the Democratic nomination.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who took Clinton's place in the Senate, has emerged as a leading voice for gays and lesbians, and women in the military during her relatively brief stint in the chamber. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren is already a national liberal hero for her crusade against big banks. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar may well be the most talented -- and effective -- politician most people have never heard of.
To be clear: None of the trio of women not named "Hillary Clinton" who made our list of the 10 Democrats most likely to wind up as the party's 2016 nominee have as good a chance as the former Secretary of State does. But, they have that in common with all of the men on our list too. Clinton is simply a massive favorite to be the Democratic nominee.
Below are our rankings. The number one candidate -- hint, it's Clinton -- has the best chance to win the nomination. Agree with our picks? Disagree? The comments section awaits!
Dropping off from our last rankings: Deval Patrick, John Hickenlooper, Mark Warner Coming on: Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Howard Dean
10. Brian Schweitzer: The former Montana governor said "no" to running for the Senate in 2014 in part because he wants to keep his eye on 2016, according to people familiar with his decision-making. Ok. But, the way he went about considering the Senate race raised questions about his readiness for a national stage. Schweitzer has a ton of charisma but his schtick can also wear thin over time. (Previous ranking: 9)
9. Elizabeth Warren: Out of the women on this list not named "Hillary", Warren has the most potential as a presidential candidate. She is beloved by the left and showed in her 2012 Senate race that she can raise a ton of money. (She brought in more than $42 million for that race.) So, why is Warren ranked this low? Because she has expressed no public interest in running and done nothing organizationally to suggest she is even thinking about it. (Previous ranking: 6)
8. Amy Klobuchar: We've written many times that no politician EVER goes to Iowa accidentally. So, the Minnesota Senator's trip to the Hawkeye State next month means only one thing: She wants to be part of the great-mentioned when it comes to 2016. Klobuchar's resume is a very impressive one; a two-term Senator and, before that, a county attorney. (Previous ranking: N/A)
7. Howard Dean: It's been a decade since the former Vermont governor lit the Democratic world on fire with his remarkable if ultimately flawed presidential candidacy. While Dean hasn't been an active candidate since then, he retains something of a following among liberals and if there is a segment of the party looking for an alternative to Clinton he could be it. Dean clearly is thinking about it, leaving the door wide open to running in an interview with CNN's Peter Hamby last month in California. (Previous ranking: N/A)
6. Martin O'Malley: On paper, the Maryland governor looks great. He's built a governing record in the Old Line State -- guns, death penalty, gay marriage etc. -- that liberals will love. He's handsome. And, he wants to be president badly. Like, really badly. But, as the New Republic's Alex MacGillis noted in a recent profile of O'Malley: "For all his gym-rat, pub-rock credentials,O’Malley is not a very charismatic politician." There is a "Democratic Tim Pawlenty" narrative building around O'Malley at the moment. And that is not a good thing. (Previous ranking: 4)
5. Cory Booker: The mayor of Newark will -- unless a political meteor strikes -- walk into a Senate seat later this fall. That will immediately make him the second most prominent African American elected official in the country -- if he isn't already. With Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick offering a unequivocal pledge not to run in 2016, Booker will come under heavy pressure to look at the race. (Previous ranking: N/A)
4. Kirsten Gillibrand: No politician has impressed us more in the last few months than Gillibrand. Her work on gathering co-sponsors on the military sexual assault measure she is pushing has shown a keen understanding of politics and how to use pressure to get what you want. And, unlike many others in the potential 2016 field, Gillibrand had a proven record of raising lots of dough. (She raised almost $30 million between 2010 and 2012.) (Previous ranking: 5)
3. Andrew Cuomo: The New York governor doesn't talk much about 2016 but his work over the past state legislative session suggests he has an eye on building a resume for that race. A sampling of those accomplishments via Real Clear Politics' Scott Conroy: "A landmark gun-control law, his third on-time budget in a row, a boost in the minimum wage, new teacher evaluation standards, and a development-boosting initiative for economically distressed upstate New York." If Hillary doesn't run, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Cuomo isn't in and isn't a top tier candidate. (Previous ranking: 3)
2. Joe Biden: Ah, God love him. The Biden profile in GQ magazine captured everything that people love about Biden and everything that makes him a risky bet as a presidential candidate. And it's the same thing. Biden is a throwback to an age when politicians went off script, said what they thought and let the chips fall where they may. It's part of his appeal but also why staying on message is so incredibly difficult for him. All that said, if Hillary doesn't run, Biden is the frontrunner to be the nominee. (Previous ranking: 2)
1. Hillary Clinton: From Nancy Pelosi to David Axelrod, everyone thinks Hillary is running and she will be the nominee. We continue to believe that she hasn't made up her mind but barring a health scare that she will run. Clinton would like to be president and anyone who has that desire would be foolish to pass up a race that looks so favorable as this one does for her. And, Hillary Clinton is not foolish. (Previous ranking: 1)