Jockeying for 2016 begins in earnest at DNC

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Ambitious up-and-comers used this week’s Democratic National Convention to introduce themselves to the nation and began carving a foothold for 2016.

While New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, potential White House hopefuls, already have begun to enter the national spotlight, both Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro used the party’s gathering in Charlotte as a launching pad.

Addressing the convention on Tuesday night, Mr. Booker — also reportedly eyeing a run against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, next year — delivered a grandiose message reminiscent of the speeches President Obama used to take the political world by storm.

“This is the demand from the next generation, who call to our conscience in a chorus of conviction, in classrooms from north to south, from sea to shining sea, when they proudly proclaim with those sacred words from our most profound pledge, that we are a nation with liberty and justice for all,” he said.

While Mr. Booker’s speech drew praise from pundits and other Democrats, it was Mr. Castro, the 37-year-old mayor of one of the nation’s largest cities and the first Hispanic to deliver a keynote convention address — who likely did the most to bolster his political prospects.

Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory A. Booker is said to be considering a race for New Jersey governor against the Republican incumbent next year. (Barbara Salisbury/ The Washington Times)

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Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory A. Booker is said to be considering a ... more >

Analysts offered rave reviews, and even Mr. Obama declared that Mr. Castro is “obviously, just an incredible talent.”

Much like Mr. Booker’s remarks, Mr. Castro offered the soaring rhetoric the president has become famous for.

“The days we live in are not easy ones, but we have seen days like this before, and America prevailed. With the wisdom of our Founders and the values of our families, America prevailed. With each generation going further than the last, America prevailed,” he said.

While both mayors appear to be stars in the making, there’s no guarantee they’ll run in 2016. Moreover, even if they do, it’s no sure thing that they’ll duplicate the meteoric rise of Mr. Obama.

“2016 is four years away. Can we adequately perceive the party’s bench now? People who seem like strong candidates will never emerge as such. People we didn’t even think about will suddenly come to the fore — Barack Obama in 2004,” said John Sides, a political-science professor at George Washington University.

Mr. Castro and Mr. Booker left with higher profiles and bright futures, but two of the party’s most notable governors, Mr. O'Malley and Mr. Cuomo, came into the week with other issues to deal with.

Mr. O'Malley sought to get back in the Obama team’s good graces after declaring last Sunday that the nation is not better off than it was four years ago, a claim he quickly walked back after it was seized on by Republicans.

Meanwhile, Mr. Cuomo’s looming decision on whether to allow controversial fracking in portions of upstate New York has him under siege from both sides of the debate — those who argue natural-gas development will promote economic growth and environmentalists who warn that he’ll pollute the state’s groundwater by giving the green light.

Those same environmental groups are also cautioning Mr. Cuomo that his decision could have an impact on his political career.

“For months, Democrats in New York have been warning Gov. Cuomo that allowing fracking will harm his presidential ambitions. Now he’s hearing from progressives around the country that this will definitely be an election issue in 2016,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the group Food and Water Watch.

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