In fact, McAuliffe and some of his top allies have suggested to big donors and consultants that supporting his campaign is a way to get in on the ground floor of Hillary 2016, several donors and operatives told POLITICO.

He’s stocked his campaign with top-tier talent likely to be involved in any Hillary Clinton presidential effort, including campaign manager Robby Mook, senior adviser Patrick Hallahan and bundlers including Jonathan Mantz and Jackson Dunn.

And McAuliffe raised nearly $2 million in March alone at a half dozen out-of-state fundraisers featuring former President Bill Clinton or other Clinton insiders including James Carville, Harold Ickes and Dee Dee Myers, according to figures provided by bundlers…

The result of the 2013 gubernatorial election could be critically important to the 2016 presidential race, regardless of who the nominees are, McAuliffe backers point out.

“The last two elections have shown that Virginia is now a bell weather state for the direction of the country,” said Mantz, who was Clinton’s national finance director in 2008 and is helping McAuliffe raise money.