...at least on the Republican side. It has on the Democratic side, because the Democrats already know their (and I use the term loosely) talent pool: it's Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley, Andrew Cuomo, and that's it*. No, seriously, that's it: nobody in the Senate or about to be in the Senate is going to be the Democratic nominee in 2016. Even the Democratic party leadership can learn, if you hit them in the head enough times. And as 2008 showed, they retain ultimate control over their party's nomination process.
But the reason why the 2016 election cycle has not really started for the Republicans is for the same reason why it has for the Democrats: the 2014 election cycle will only have an effect on the GOP field. Even if you assume that the Democrats will somehow manage to reverse their utter disaster in 2010 when it came to gubernatorial races - and yes, they're aware about how badly they mucked that one, and how it bleeds them every day - a new crop of governors elected in 2014 will not be ripe by 2016. 2020, sure; but right now a sitting or recently retired governor with a successful re-election bid under his or her belt is going to walk into 2016 with an advantage. The Democrats don't have many of those that are viable; O'Malley and Cuomo are the best of a distinctly substandard lot.
You may take all of this as being my essentially good-natured pooh-poohing of drawing any kind of electoral significance in the current sparring between Chris Christie and Rand Paul over the GOP's future foreign policy strategy. It's a necessary discussion, of course; and more so as 9/11 recedes and we examine and evaluate various emergency policies and strategies made in that era. But as to whether the election hinges on it... nope. This isn't 2009, where the Republican party was still recovering from the 2006 and 2008 wildfires. Our bench then was a lot like the Democrats' is now, in fact: a couple of obvious choices with a lot of baggage, a bunch of sorta-maybes who technically qualifies, and a whole bunch of a long shots. For better or for worse, 2015 will be giving us a bunch of viable Presidential candidates who will being able to claim "successful governor" on their resumes... including at least least two candidates that certain factions in the GOP will positively loathe. Possibly three**.
Which is good news; because if we're going to have to have umpteen billion candidates up on the podium stage***, let's at least have it so that the least believable candidate is still viable. Embarrassment of riches, and all that.
Moe Lane (crosspost)
*Which essentially means that it's either Biden or Clinton; the other two are there because there's actually a mild chance that both decide not to run.
**And no, I'm not going to say which ones. One is fairly obvious; the second is less so, and I'd rather not jinx that election. The third I'm still trying to decide whether I do want to jinx that election; my 'any Republican beats any Democrat' rule of thumb is an argument against said jinxing, but I'm blessed if I can think of any other one, right now.
***This footnote is specifically addressed to Reince Priebus, because I know that you'll eventually read this: we should not have more than five candidates at any 2016 primary debate, and you or your successor will need to sit on people if necessary to make that happen. I am sure that you or your staff will be able to find some sort of suitable skullduggery to make this happen.