Look, I never do this, but I think this time it's justified. I'm going to very officially give everyone permission to think about the 2016 nomination contests without guilt or apology.
I shall begin by, officially, declaring credentials. I've published on and written about presidential nominations for a long time, and I even have a fancy Ph.D. to show for (in part) my expertise about them. As a result, I wound up as co-editor of the quadrennial edited volume about the presidential nomination process...here, I'll even throw a link to the 2012 edition, just in case you should want to buy it (which you should - it's excellent!). For whatever else it's worth, I blogged GOP WH 2012 from 2009 on, and not that I want to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty confident that if you read my stuff about it, you had a pretty good understanding of what was going on as it unfolded.
In other words, when it comes to presidential nominations, I'm a certified, qualified, expert. Not by any means the only one, or even the only blogging one, but nevertheless. And I'm pretty sure all of us agree on this one.
So I'm officially telling all of you -- reporters, bloggers, pundits, whatever: you have official permission to report on and opine on and otherwise write and talk about the contests for the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential nominations. Right now. Because they are happening. Right now. In fact, it's been going on for months now.
I know you know this. It's not as if a bunch of candidates will show up in winter 2015-2016 in Iowa and the campaign will start then...you know that candidates are going to Iowa and New Hampshire and South Carolina right now, and that they're giving policy speeches aimed at 2016 right now, and that they're working the party networks right now, and that they're staffing up for 2016 right now.
And there's nothing wrong with that! Is it too long before the election? Actually, the US is the outlier here; many nations choose their nominees for office long before the election; the British Labour Party chose their current leader, Ed Miliband, way back in September 2010, long before they'll contest a general election. Yes, there are differences that make that sensible, and yes, that's not part of a years-long public and semi-public campaign, but still: it's not necessarily a bad thing that the US has an unusually open process and unusually permeable parties. At any rate, it's the process we have.
Of course, a lot of the speculation and reporting about 2016 are junk. That will be true in winter 2015-2016 as well! Someone during that winter is going to talk about a late-entering candidate even though it's long since past time for it. Someone is going to get carried away by a no-chance candidate who has a good debate. Someone is going to start speculating about a "brokered" convention. The point here is that we should ignore (and, if you like, laugh at) the foolish pieces now just as much as you should ignore them then. That has nothing to do with whether there are good pieces now. If you decide to pay no attention until fall 2015, there's a very good chance that you'll have missed the real contest.
The bottom line is that the campaigns are going on right now. If you ignore them because you believe that they are not going on, or that they shouldn't be going on, you're going to be missing two enormously important stories...at least if you think, as you should, that presidential nomination contests are important.
So stop feeling guilty about it. Stop feeling a need to justify it. Just get on with it.