I remember a time in America when we used to have some time between elections to reflect on the lessons of the previous contests, develop some talent in the field, and actually get a few things done before worrying about the next election.  If that sounds like a Grandpa walked seventeen miles to school in the snow barefoot and uphill both ways story, well, this article from Politico probably doesn’t bother you at all:

Tired of presidential politics? Get over it: Upwards of 15 prominent Republicans are privately contemplating 2016 campaigns for the presidency — and the most serious and ambitious of the bunch are already plunging in, some quite publicly.

Don’t expect them to officially announce or even officially decide for many months. But Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) are doing nothing to disguise their presidential ambitions. …

Rubio and Ryan, both arguably better positioned than Jindal, are also competing for the mantle of the high-energy, forward-thinking conservative. POLITICO has learned both will unveil new policy plans at an awards dinner of the Jack Kemp Foundation in early December: Ryan will begin a new push on a more modern approach to alleviating poverty, focused on education; Rubio will lift the curtain on an economic empowerment message, heavy on college affordability and workforce training.

That upcoming duet is one of the clearest signs that this presidential race is beginning as early as any in history.

Not to be outdone, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), son of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and heir to his father’s libertarian following, is now on the record exploring a run that will focus heavily on returning power to the states. In a post-election interview with POLITICO, Paul said he wants to find common ground with liberal Democrats on softer marijuana laws and help create an eventual pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Far be it from me to cast any cold water on the economic boost that a political campaign provides, but, er … we’re four years away from that election. We do have another one coming up before then — a midterm Congressional election that might be an opportunity for some success.  Shouldn’t Republicans focus more on producing Senate candidates to challenge the incumbent Democrats who will have to defend twice as many seats as the GOP in 2014?  I mean, it’s great to get a look at policy innovation — something the Republican Party desperately needs, especially in dealing with urban policy — but maybe we could focus on that as something to do now rather than promise in the context of the 2016 elections.

However, if Republican candidates can’t wait to get started, they should also remember that media outlets can’t wait to start marginalizing them, too.  Matt Lewis writes that the Republicans looking to get a head start on their 2016 ambitions had better be on guard against “Palinization,” which GQ tried with Marco Rubio:

Mark Halperin nailed it on “Morning Joe”:

“There’s one area where Democrats are really far ahead of Republicans right now. Science and technology, no. It’s doing this thing that Democrats failed to do in 2000, to stop George W. Bush, which is really, really early on using the left-wing Freak Show to define anyone who’s thinking of running for President, as quickly as possible, in negative terms on Twitter, on cable, on the Internet. They’re all over this Rubio thing because they want to control his image in a negative way and they did it this cycle too. They went after Romney early, it really hurt him. And they’re doing it now.”

And so, this is a strategy. Like Sarah Palin in 2008, Democrats view Marco Rubio as a major threat — not just for one or two elections — but someone who could undermine their advantage among the college educated, the young, and Latinos. Like Palin in ’08, he is viewed as an existential threat.

And just like Palin — whom they feared — they wan’t to destroy his credibility; to make him a joke.

For obvious reasons, it is vital that Rubio — and, in fact, all conservatives going forward — be able to articulate a serious conservative worldview that doesn’t fit the “anti-science” stereotype. (This is part of what I mean when I talk about cosmopolitan conservatism.)

The GQ question reminds me of George Stephanopoulos tossing in the non-sequitur issue of contraception in the New Hampshire debate last January, magically just a couple of weeks before the Obama administration offered the HHS mandate and declared that Republicans wage a “war on women.”  Peter Wehner has some thoughts about the new environment for Republicans in the mainstream media, whose biases have become all but declared, which he approaches from the context of the Benghazi terrorist attack:

In the Benghazi story, we have four dead Americans. A lack of security that borders on criminal negligence. No apparent effort was made to save the lives of Messrs. Woods and Doherty, despite their pleas. The Obama administration, including the president, gave false and misleading accounts of what happened despite mounting evidence to the contrary. And the person who was wrongly accused of inciting the attacks by making a crude YouTube video is now in prison. Yet the press has, for the most part, treated this story with ambivalence and reluctance. A reliable barometer of the views of the elite media is Tom Friedman of the New York Times, who said on Meet the Press on Sunday, “To me, Libya is not a scandal, it’s a tragedy.”

Here’s the thing, though. If the exact same incidents had occurred in the exact same order, and if it had happened during the watch of a conservative president, it would be a treated as a scandal. An epic one, in fact. The coverage, starting on September 12 and starting with Mr. Friedman’s newspaper, would have been nonstop, ferociously negative, and the pressure put on the president and his administration would have been crushing. Jon Stewart, the moral conscience of an increasing number of journalists, wouldn’t have let this story die. …

For some journalists, it’s fairly clear as to why: they had a rooting interest in Mr. Obama winning and they carried a deep dislike, even contempt, for Governor Romney. But for many others I think the explanation is more subtle and in some respects more problematic. They appear to be completely blind to their biases and double standards. If you gave them sodium pentothal, they would say they were being objective. Self-examination, it turns out, is harder than self-justification. And of course being surrounded with people who share and reinforce your presuppositions and worldview doesn’t help matters. …

In general, journalists receive critiques like this with indignation. They enjoy holding up public officials, but not themselves, to intense scrutiny. They insist that their personal biases never bleed into their story selection or coverage. But the outstanding ones and the honest ones would admit, though perhaps only to themselves, that the double standard is real and troubling, that it’s injurious to their profession, and that things really do need to change. Perhaps because they still know why they got into journalism in the first place—not for advocacy but to report the news in a relatively even-handed manner, to “speak truth to power,” regardless of the political views of those in power, and to pursue stories in a way that is fair and unafraid.

Today such an attitude sounds almost quaint.

Republican candidates had better get used to the idea that most of the establishment media wants to see them fail.  The first rule of media relations is this: start preparing for each interview as a hostile encounter not with an objective journalist but with a partisan looking to pursue the “Left-wing freak show,” using Halperin’s words.  That may be unfair to some journalists who pursue their trade honestly, but if so, it’s incumbent on them to pressure and shame their colleagues into better behavior.

And maybe that’s a good reason to get a four-year head start on the process.