It can be said that the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) 2013 is the unofficial start to the 2016 nomination process for Republicans. Most, if not all, of the big names being floated for a 2016 run on the GOP side are in attendance.

Report from CNN:

Nearly a dozen Republicans who might be considering a run for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 are auditioning in front of the Conservative Political Action Conference, which touts itself as the largest and oldest annual gathering of conservatives.

On Friday, Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, will speak at CPAC. If Romney is the GOP’s past, then Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Rand Paul of Kentucky are the GOP’s future.

Both men, considered leading 2016 Republican White House hopefuls, gave back-to-back and dueling speeches Thursday. Although different in style and with divergent plans to revitalize a party that’s lost the last two presidential elections, both men praised the conservative cause.

“We don’t need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America, and it still works,” Rubio said to loud applause.

Paul said that for the Republican Party to win, “liberty needs to be the backbone of the GOP.”

Aside from Rubio and Paul, of course, candidates such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are also mulling 2016 runs. The list also includes several others I’ve failed to name. Another notable might be Dr. Ben Carson, Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital. Dr. Carson made waves just over a month ago when he publicly and thoroughly chastised many of President Obama’s policies while the President sat just a few feet from the podium.

Exit question: Who is the most intriguing prospect you see for 2016 on the GOP side? For Democrats, who would you prefer to be running against in 2016?