Will she or won’t she? Normally, one would expect the focus in an election year to be on the election at hand.  Yet, as the Washington Post reports, the media and a number of analysts seem more fascinated with the election in four years, and whether Hillary Clinton will make one final shot at the brass ring:

Even 4,000 miles away from Washington, and four years removed from her famous“18 million cracks” speech conceding the 2008 Democratic primary race, Hillary Rodham Clinton still gets the question.

If anything, since making it clear that she wouldn’t serve in a second Obama administration, she has started getting it more. In Copenhagen last month, after meeting with top Danish officials and taking reporters’ queries on U.S. policy toward Syria, the secretary of state was pressed on her political ambitions. …

But what of 2016? Has Clinton given up on busting though that glass ceiling, or will her ambition and influence move her to run for president once again? In recent days, prominent Democrats such as former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell and her own husband, former president Bill Clinton, have speculated aloud that she just might.

Her fans may be in for disappointment, even though they may not know it for another three years:

Guessing about Hillary Clinton’s presidential ambitions has been a game since at least 2003 — when she began laying the groundwork for a run — and has never stopped. Back then, her friends admit, she had to be coy. Now, they say, Clinton truly does not think she will run again.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think she’ll run again, either, although three years is a long way off, too.  The Clinton moment passed for good in 2007, when Barack Obama eclipsed her in the presidential primary cycle.  She has high favorability ratings now, in part because she hasn’t been involved in partisan politics for more than three year years, and in part because of the declining popularity of her current boss.  It won’t take long for the negatives to return if she decided on another run in 2016 based on all of the old baggage attached to the Clintons, as well as some more recent baggage, like the “reset” button and her husband’s curious mea culpa after speaking economic common sense that happened to conflict with the disaster of Obamanomics.

What I find fascinating is the fascination itself.  The two Democrats most often mentioned for a potential 2016 run are Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, and at 69 years of age, Hillary would be the younger of the two when Election Day 2016 arrives.  They belong to a different era of politics, but who else in the Democratic Party is ready for a national run in four years?  Andrew Cuomo might be the only one that leaps to mind, but his father rather famously played footsie with Democrats for years and never actually took the plunge; the son will be a tougher sell, although he’s getting good reviews in New York thus far in his first term as governor.  Their Senate leadership is too old, and Democrats lost so many gubernatorial elections over the last three years that their bench has almost run dry.

Compare that to the Republican bench, in and out of Washington DC.  The party has a number of exciting, fresh talent in chief-executive slots around the country.  Assuming Romney doesn’t win this year, names like Bobby Jindal, Nikki Haley, Susana Martinez, Scott Walker, and Bob McDonnell will probably be in play.  On Capitol Hill, energetic newcomers like Mike Lee, Rand Paul, and Marco Rubio will be more seasoned and better prepared to argue for a shot at the highest office in the country.  If Romney wins this year and in 2016, those same candidates will still have their positions improved for another run, plus more may join them.  Unlike Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, they’ll represent the present and the future, not the distant past.

Small wonder, then, that the media keeps hounding Hillary about 2016.  There aren’t a lot of other options for Democrats.