The Riggs Report: The candidate rollout continues

The 2016 presidential contest appears closer than ever

Campaign season is here. Hillary Clinton’s and Marco Rubio’s launch of their presidential campaigns this week marks just the beginning of a campaign marathon that will test the candidates’ skills, their consultants’ tactics and the voters’ patience.

Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, joins Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul on what will eventually be a long list of Republican hopefuls.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is raising big bucks for his planned announcement. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry is still pondering whether he wants to make a second try, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is said to be planning an announcement in early June.

Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive who flopped in her run for a U.S. Senate seat in California in 2010, has sent signals that she will make a White House bid.

By contrast, Clinton enters as the presumed favorite on the Democratic side. Inevitable? No, but she starts her candidacy with an enviable set of advantages. Clinton is well-known, has a long political track record, and has the means to raise huge sums of political cash.

When it comes to potential Democratic rivals, the field is uncertain. Vice President Joe Biden has been quiet about whether he would run. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has been taking a close look, as has the former governor of Rhode Island, Lincoln Chafee. All would face significant challenges in ramping up to take on Clinton.

Clinton immediately headed to Iowa this week, knowing she can’t afford a repeat of what happened there in 2008, when she was only able to tally third place in the influential caucus vote. Her campaign staff deliberately staged her appearances this week in small settings, such as an auto repair vocational classroom. No big rallies or packed auditoriums this week—an effort to downplay Clinton’s high profile and to send a signal that she wants to listen to voter concerns.

Rubio’s announcement was calibrated to challenge the notion that voters are prepared to send another Clinton to the White House. He is relatively new to Washington. But, then again, so was Barack Obama when he received his party’s nomination in Denver in 2008.

One of Rubio’s early challenges is to defuse criticism of his vote two years ago for a comprehensive immigration reform package that included provisions for eventual citizenship for those in this country without legal documentation. That plan, which angered party conservatives, passed the Senate but died in the House.

Since then, Rubio has reversed course, calling his vote for that plan a mistake.

As the campaign field takes shape for 2016, about the only thing that is certain is this: California will again be a West Coast pit stop for fundraising, and little else. The state’s blue politics mean little incentive for any presidential hopeful to spend time here wooing voters.