1. Elizabeth Warren, Potential Rival

The populist senator from Massachusetts is, at the dawn of 2015, the only person who appears able to mount a competitive challenge to Hillary Rodham Clinton in the race for the Democratic nomination. The architect of President Barack Obama’s consumer financial protection agency, Warren would be able to quickly raise millions from an already enthusiastic following.

2. Steve Robertson, Backroom Ally

The bespectacled chairman of the Republican Party of Kentucky will have a busy 2015 – thanks in no small measure to the political aspirations of the state’s junior senator, Rand Paul. As Robertson works to elect a Republican governor for only the second time in 44 years, he will have to figure out whether to help Paul run for president and re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2016 – something nominally barred by Kentucky law.

3. Paul Fishman, Prosecutor

As U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Paul Fishman is leading the federal criminal investigation into a scheme to create traffic jams on a bridge that links New Jersey with Manhattan – a political scandal that still hangs over the political ambitions of Gov. Chris Christie.

4. John Podesta, Steady Influence

A senior adviser to President Barack Obama, Podesta is a trusted Democratic counselor and environmental policymaker who served as Bill Clinton’s White House chief of staff. Podesta has said he doesn’t intend to leave the White House until Obama’s mid-January State of the Union address and could serve as Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman.

5. Ron Paul and Rafael Cruz, Proud Fathers

Ted Cruz and Rand Paul are no strangers to stirring up trouble in the Senate, but both are tame compared to their fathers. Rafael Cruz, a Dallas-area pastor, says God prefers conservative candidates. Ron Paul, a physician and former congressman from Texas, opposed almost every facet of government as overreach during his time in office. Both fathers are sure to become focal points of scrutiny should their sons enter the race for president.

6. Sheldon Adelson, Republican Megadonor

One of the Republican Party’s most powerful donors, the casino magnate has the money to single-handedly bankroll a candidate’s presidential prospects – which he did in 2012 for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. His advisers suggest Adelson is in no hurry to pick his 2016 favorite, but look for foreign policy – and Israel in particular – to weigh heavily on his ultimate decision.

7. Raul Castro, Communist Dictator

Obama’s recent decision to restore America’s diplomatic relations with Cuba thrust the issue – and the island nation’s communist leader, Raul Castro – into the 2016 contest.

8. Bill Clinton, Would-Be First Gentleman

The former president is sure to emerge as the ultimate surrogate if his wife seeks the White House a second time. He was among the most popular campaigners for Democratic candidates during the 2014 elections, and his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention helped sell Obama’s economic agenda and first-term record.

9. Columba Bush, Would-Be First Lady

Perhaps no one has more influence on former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush’s presidential aspirations than his wife of 40 years, Columba Bush. As the debate over immigration rages inside the party, Columba Bush’s background – she is a native of Mexico – could play prominently in her husband’s presidential campaign.

10. Terry Branstad and Joni Ernst, Iowa Connections

Terry Branstad has won election as Iowa governor six times, more than any other state chief executive in U.S. history. Joni Ernst was the breakout star of the 2014 midterm elections, a little-known state lawmaker who parlayed rural roots and a military background into a win for the U.S. Senate. The pair will be sought after by every Republican seeking to kick off their campaign for president with a win in the first-to-vote Iowa Caucus.