Donald Lambro

The 2016 presidential marathon began this week when Hillary Clinton had a very visible, heavily-promoted White House lunch with President Obama, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie threw a political punch at one of his potential rivals for the Republican nomination.

If there were any doubts that the former secretary of state plans to run for president, they were put to rest when Hillary and Obama had lunch on the patio outside the Oval Office on Monday.

The White House photographer, Chuck Kennedy, took pictures of the tete-a-tete that were immediately beamed around the world, sending a clear message the Clintons were gearing up to take back the presidency. And maybe Obama was ready to help them do that.

Some of the president's senior campaign aides were already working for the former New York senator's Ready for Hillary super PAC. Mitch Stewart and Jeremy Bird, who had managed Obama's field operations in 2008 and 2012, have joined her PAC operation.

The national news media was also preparing to promote her candidacy well in advance of the 2015-16 presidential election cycle. NBC announced over the weekend that its entertainment division is working on a miniseries about her political and personal life.

And CNN -- long known as the Clinton News Network -- announced it has hired a top documentary filmmaker to produce a feature-length movie about Clinton's political career. Talk about friends in high places.

The White House billed the luncheon as "chiefly social" and nothing more than just two friends "to get a chance to catch up." But it was so much more than that. Was Obama sending an early signal he intends to support Clinton three and a half years from now?

There were signs he was doing that. The biggest came earlier this month when Obama's chief campaign strategist and closest political adviser, David Axelrod, seemed to be endorsing her for the nomination during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

"I think Hillary Clinton probably will be the candidate," Axelrod said.

Vice President Joe Biden was also said to be mulling over a bid for the top job himself. But there appeared to be relatively little support among the party's hierarchy for the former Delaware senator (known for putting his foot in his mouth) whose own presidential bid fell flat in 2008.

Clinton and Biden also quietly met this week at the vice president's official residence over breakfast. Did she tell him of her plans to run? Possibly.

Clinton's been giving a lot of speeches around the country and being coy about her future plans, but the real political question about her candidacy is what will she run on?

Donald Lambro

Donald Lambro is chief political correspondent for The Washington Times.