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All eyes on Clinton, Cuomo

One of the regular questions fielded by the Politics Column pops up the morning after Election Night. “Aren’t you glad it’s over?” they ask.

And our response remains the same every year. “What do you mean? It starts all over again today.”

In a sense, the answer to that oft-posed question works every four years, too. No sooner had Barack Obama dispatched Mitt Romney last November when political soothsayers began looking ahead to 2016.

The field is certainly crowded. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush and others are lining up for the GOP. The Dems offer intriguing possibilities, too, though we New Yorkers remain fixated on two very familiar names – Hillary Rodham Clinton and Andrew Cuomo.

So we’ll join the early speculation by noting that the retired secretary of state may be eclipsing the president of the United States in recent days by just “being Hillary.”

That means Clinton earns worldwide media attention by simply delivering a Tuesday speech in Washington. It marked her post-State debut, underscored her resolve to remain in the political spotlight and only fueled more speculation.

Even more significant, however, was her recent declaration of support for same-sex marriage that now puts her in sync with the national Democratic Party. Anyone who attended last September’s Democratic National Convention in Charlotte recognizes that after virtually every speaker passionately advocated same-sex marriage, Clinton had to square her views with the national party.

Then there’s that other New Yorker residing in Speculationville – even if Cuomo works overtime to discourage such talk.

Indeed, the governor was asked about 2016 when he visited The Buffalo News on Tuesday. He was not asked if he is considering a presidential race in 2016. Specifically, he was asked if he thought Clinton – already nominated by a plethora of pundits – looms as the inevitable nominee of the Democratic Party.

“I don’t think about 2016,” he replied. “I’m working as hard as I can this year.”

Sorry. We just thought we’d ask.

Still, Cuomo’s answer underscores exactly how he might conduct a 2016 campaign. If he can tame dysfunctional Albany, he could argue, he can tame even dysfunctional Washington. Just doing your job counts for a lot in New York.

And after registering stratospheric poll numbers over the first half of his term with a fiscal conservatism that even statewide Republicans reluctantly praised, the governor has lately veered leftward.

He began that drift in 2011 as a successful champion of same-sex marriage. This year he is fiercely advocating a women’s program that strengthens abortion rights. And, of course, he sought and received one of the toughest gun control laws in America following the Newtown tragedy.

The result is a significant (though not dangerous) plunge in the polls, especially over the gun control issue. He understands such a drop is part of the deal.

“This is a very difficult political issue. It’s 70-30 [percent] in the state, but the 30 are very vocal and mobilized,” he said. “And 30 is a large number. I get their political strength. I get it very well ... I get the harshness. I get the ferocity.

“Some people are nervous about the politics of the bill. Yeah,” he added. “Look at my numbers and see me go down with upstate conservatives. There’s a political price to pay for doing this.”

But he also called the bill “one of the single greatest accomplishments of this Legislature and my administration,” adding he can handle a dip in the polls if stricter gun laws save lives.

So, in the odd chance Cuomo some day thinks about 2016, he may very well make this case: He did his job, ignored the politics and so far it works in New York.

Will it all play in places like Iowa?

That’s a question the governor says he’s not thinking about now. But it’s still a good question for a spring day in 2013.