Asked, as she must be dozens of times a day, Hillary Rodham Clinton issues the usual disclaimers about running for president in 2016. Nobody believes her. The odds in her favor are too strong, even this far out.
With a mere three years and six months to go until the election, polls in New Hampshire, the critical first-in-the-nation primary state, show her crushing any opposition for the Democratic nomination.
The former first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state would capture 68 percent of the Democratic vote if the primary were held today. That compares with 12 percent for Vice President Joe Biden. All the other likely candidates -- Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a senator for just over three months; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick -- poll in the very low single digits. The survey was done by Public Policy Polling.
That poll tracks with the WMUR Granite State Poll done by the University of New Hampshire. It shows Clinton with 61 percent of the primary vote and Biden with 7 percent. The other possibilities didn't exceed 5 percent. And she shows similar strength in the Iowa caucuses.
This might be the political equivalent of the so-called "Hot Stove League" of baseball's offseason, except that experienced campaign staff and campaign funds want to align with a winner -- and in politics there's no money like early money.
Predictably, the picture for the Republican nomination is more muddled. The PPP survey shows Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky with 28 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida with 25 percent; 14 percent for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; and 7 percent each for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
The Granite State Poll had Rubio and Paul tied at 15 percent each; followed by Christie and Ryan at 11 percent each.
You know, it seems like only three months or so ago that President Barack Obama was inaugurated for his second term. Oh, wait. It was only three months or so. But even so, 68 percent -- better than two out of three Democrats? That's a hard number to ignore, no matter how preposterously early it is.
Dale McFeatters is a nationally syndicated columnist.