Could it be Clinton v. Christie in 2016?

(L-R) In this Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 photograph, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question during a news conference in Trenton, N.J. (Photo by Mel...
(L-R) In this Friday, Dec. 7, 2012 photograph, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie answers a question during a news conference in Trenton, N.J. (Photo by Mel...
John Moore/Getty Images/File

Barack Obama’s second inauguration may still be more than a month away, but that won’t stop true political junkies from fantasizing about 2016. And topping off just about everyone’s wish list of potential candidates are the enormously popular Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Clinton, outshone only by her husband, former President Bill Clinton, received the second highest approval rating of all the public figures included in the latest NBC/WSJ poll. Overall, 58% of those polled gave her a positive rating, while only 28% went negative. And (as if that weren’t enough) the poll also found that Clinton enjoys 100% name recognition.

Confidence in Clinton’s presidential prospects dominates the national conversation about 2016 to an almost hilarious extent. On Sunday’s Meet the Press, for example, former presidential candidate and House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that if Clinton does decide to run, the Republican Party would then be “incapable of competing at that level.” And even Andy Borowitz’s latest part-satirical, part-sincere headline reads, “Race for White House wide open after Hillary leaves office in 2024.”

Chris Christie’s no bum either. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, a Quinnipiac University poll found that the governor’s approval rating soared to a record 72%, which is the highest Quinnipiac has ever measured for any New Jersey governor.

Plus, Christie gets to sport the “Jersey Strong” badge in a time when its seems the national spotlight has never shone more brightly on the Garden State.  With Boardwalk Empire on HBO, Jersey Boys on Broadway, and the recent outpouring of support all over the world for Sandy victims, New Jerseyans have a lot of good reasons to feel proud.

“Something says to me, it’s Jersey’s turn,” said host Chris Matthews on Hardball Thursday. “It just is.”

One big problem for Christie, however, is that four years is a long time, especially in political years. Should he decide to run for president in 2016, Christie may have to do so without the popularity he is currently enjoying.

“If [Christie] had run this time, he could have gotten all those blue collar guys in Michigan, all the blue collar guys in Ohio, all the blue collar guys in Wisconsin… He would have been a great candidate,” said Republican strategist John Feehery on Hardball Thursday. “The question is, in four years, can he maintain that?”

Democratic strategist Bob Shrum predicted some challenges that could befall the governor in a presidential race. On the issue of abortion, Christie is like Romney—he used to be pro-choice but then “flip-flopped on the issue,” to become a pro-life advocate, Shrum said on Hardball.

And while the governor’s record approval rating is due in large part to his Sandy response, the way he embraced President Obama, as Shrum said, “left a lot of bad taste in a lot of Republican mouths.”

But let’s not get too carried away. This is only a hypothetical match-up, after all.

Barbara Walters asked both Clinton and Christie about their presidential aspirations on her Most Fascinating People special, and both gave decidedly vague responses. Neither one definitively ruled out a possible run for president, but neither one seemed particularly gung ho about a 2016 race either.

But maybe that’s just politicians being politicians.

“When people say they don’t intend to run, that’s usually a signal that they’re going to run,” said Shrum.

“One thing no candidate, male or female, Democrat or Republican, ever admits to is ambition,” said Matthews. “It’s not in their memoirs when they’re 9-years-old; they never admit it when they’re 25-years-old. It’s the one thing you never admit, but everybody knows you have…They never say I want to be president.”

Could it be Clinton v. Christie in 2016?