1) Hillary Clinton
Secretary of State Clinton is the clear favorite among Advocate readers, with 64% of you in our exit survey encouraging her to run for president in 2016. Clinton's effort in 2008 may not have won over the majority of Democrats, but in the long run, her campaign and tenure in President Obama's Cabinet has catapulted her onto a higher plane of likability. Even the upstate New York daily paper The Buffalo News has already endorsed Clinton for 2016, instead of New York governor Andrew Cuomo, another favorite (who also made this list). Many readers went so far as to suggest running mates for Clinton: Newark, N.J., mayor Cory Booker, Governor Cuomo, and newly elected Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. A clear shining moment during her time so far as secretary was Clinton's landmark speech on LGBT rights around the world, in which she declared LGBT rights are human rights and urged global leaders to end the discrimination against sexual minorities that endures in too many countries.
2) Andrew Cuomo
A very distant second to Clinton, New York's Democratic governor runs the most populous state with marriage equality and is a big reason the law passed. New York may be reliably blue in presidential races, but the state's Republicans didn't make passage of marriage equality in 2011 an easy effort. Cuomo brokered deals to persuade state assemblymembers and state senators to vote for equality (within six months of beginning his first term in office, no less). Cuomo has so far avoided questions about any potential candidacy, but his recent prominence after handling Hurricane Sandy's destruction has him back on people's minds. Time magazine and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle already have him on short lists.
3) Elizabeth Warren
Massachusetts' populist new senator is already being rooted onward. Warren was an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights while on the campaign trail. When she came across policy differences with her Republican opponent on whether to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act and pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, she emphasized them instead of shying away.
4) Joe Biden
The vice president was picked after his own presidential campaign got beaten by upstart Barack Obama in 2008. So we know he'd like the job. Biden is credited with -- perhaps inadvertently -- forcing the president's evolution on marriage equality when he came out in favor of it during an appearance on Meet the Press. Biden likes to brag that he always says what he means, even if politically he shouldn't.
5) Michelle Obama
The first lady could have had a political career of her own as an Ivy-league educated attorney with a passion for health, education, and veterans and their families. She admirably bootstrapped her way from a lower-middle-class African-American family. But Michelle Obama has been a dynamic, beloved first lady, garnering an average higher popularity rating than her husband. Her speeches before LGBT crowds are always welcomed with big applause. If Hillary Clinton is a model for what's possible, then Michelle could be a tough commander in chief. Remember, she puts on quite a gun show.
6) Cory Booker
The Newark, N.J., mayor is a rising star in the Democratic Party as well as a representative of a younger generation of politicians. This 43-year-old, African-American, Harvard-educated mayor communicates frequently with his constituents on Twitter, and he vocally supports marriage equality. Elected in 2006, Booker has declined to officiate any weddings until all residents have equal marriage rights. Plus, Booker appeared in an ad last year for the Human Rights Campaign's Americans for Marriage Equality effort. "I support it because from my earliest of ages I made a pledge that we will be a nation with liberty and justice for all," Booker said in the spot. But first, Booker's national cachet and his approval ratings in New Jersey also have him marked as a potential candidate next year for governor. The fact that his Twitter followers number nearly five times the population of Newark (277,540) can only be a plus whatever his next move.
7) Martin O'Malley
The governor of Maryland may not be the flashiest Democrat being nudged to run for commander in chief in 2016, but he is one of the strongest allies for LGBT Marylanders. In addition to lobbying passionately for marriage equality, which voters finally approved last week, O'Malley has helped raise money for LGBT-related causes like stopping bullying in schools. O'Malley said in a September interview with The Advocate that getting African-Americans (who make up about a third of Maryland's population) to support marriage equality would be crucial to victory in his state. "I think there are very few groups of people in the United States who are as fundamentally fair and understanding as African-American people are, given their history, and yet at the same time, they are also a very religious people with a rock-solid faith in God, and if they did not have that faith they wouldn't have survived as a people," he said. "And so these conversations are all about reconciling those fundamental beliefs, and I think the same evolution has happened among Catholic people."
8) Julian Castro (tied)
The keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte made quite an impression with LGBT voters. And we're reminded of a certain Illinois candidate for Senate who used the speaking spot to launch to national prominence. "When it comes to letting people marry whomever they love, Mitt Romney says, 'No,'" the San Antonio mayor noted in his speech among a list of issues where the GOP nominee was on the wrong side. Castro is a longtime supporter of LGBT equality, the Dallas Voice points out, starting with becoming the first mayor to serve as grand marshall of the city's pride parade. When Castro was faced with whether to approve domestic partnership benefits in his city, he said in 2011, "This is not a new issue -- this should have be done some time ago."
8) Gary Johnson (tied)
The former governor of New Mexico just couldn't get any respect in a Republican primary with the right-wing likes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to contend with. He had trouble getting into the debates with his libertarian, pro-marriage equality views. So he eventually withdrew from the GOP primary and became the standard bearer for a national libertarian ticket. But he's still the only candidate from Republican roots to make our readers' top 10 hopefuls for 2016.
10) Jill Stein
The Green Party candidate had trouble getting attention for her run for president in 2012, except when she got arrested a couple times during protests. She and her party got a perfect grade on The Advocate's presidential candidate scorecard, matching President Obama issue by issue on LGBT concerns.