Early 2016 presidential race

The early stages of the 2016 presidential contest are worlds apart for Democrats and Republicans.

Rick Hohensee of Washington holds a "Fire Congress" sign near the House steps on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, in the second week of the partial government shutdown. President Barack Obama called House Speaker John Boehner saying that he won't negotiate over reopening the government or must-pass legislation to prevent a U.S. default on its obligations. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The early stages of the 2016 presidential contest are worlds apart for Democrats and Republicans.

Many Democrats already view Hillary Rodham Clinton as a quasi-incumbent. The former secretary of state hasn't announced her intentions, but she's done little to dampen enthusiasm about another presidential bid.

Republicans have no clear front-runner. They expect a crowded field that could include candidates like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

It could be the most jumbled GOP presidential campaign in a generation.

The official starting line is likely a year away. But in some ways the campaign has already begun. Next year, prospective candidates will focus on expanding their networks, compiling a policy agenda and raising money for down-ticket candidates who could become future allies.

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