While the country is focused on this 2012 presidential election, it's never too early to start thinking about 2016. A number of possible contenders have made a point of addressing one very influential group during their stay here in Charlotte, including a certain New York senator. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report..
Thursday, in an eyebrow-raising move, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand visited the delegation from Iowa, which holds the first-in-the-nation caucuses every four years. She sounded a lot like a presidential hopeful, introducing herself to Iowa voters and heaping praise on the Hawkeye State for being among the first, she noted, to permit gay marriage.
"We would not have repealed Don't Ask, Don't Tell if Iowa didn't go first and actually assure marriage equality for every person in your state," she said.
Of all the functions going on in and around the Democratic convention here in Charlotte, a tent in a hotel parking may be the spot to be for Democrats with an eye on 2016.
Here, every day over breakfast, Iowans have heard from potential candidates testing the waters. Thursday, it was Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer. Earlier in the week, the Iowans hosted Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
"There are some that I know for a fact have an aspiration to run," said Danny Homan, the president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61. "That's why they're here."
"I think they're all exploring what it is like to run for president and this is one of the stops," said Iowa delegate Andy Bock.
Gillibrand made a clear connection with the crowd.
"I watched that crowd," said Sue Dvorsky, the chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party. "They know her. She's so genuine and so real."
"She was obviously very comfortable in this environment and I think everybody loved her," said Norm Sterzenbach, the Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director.
Still, Gillibrand insists she has another candidate in mind for 2016.
"I am going to be the chairperson of the Hillary Clinton 2016 fan club," she said. "I'm hoping that Secretary Clinton runs."
Clinton has indicated she won't run. Another possible candidate, Vice President Joe Biden, hasn't ruled it out. And there's someone else Gillibrand says would make a great president: Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was also in Charlotte Thursday, though he kept a low profile, staying far from the Iowans.