North Carolina may get a preview of the 2016 GOP presidential primary. Potential presidential candidates are lining up behind U. S. Senate candidates vying to challenge Democrat Kay Hagan. The North Carolina primary offers the presidential wannabes a chance to identify supporters, assess their strength and build organizations.

First, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul endorsed Tea Party favorite Greg Brannon. Then yesterday, former Arkansas Governor and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee endorsed fellow evangelical preacher Mark Harris. If only Chris Christy weren’t in too much trouble to endorse Thom Tillis.

While we might not see a whole lot of the presidential aspirants themselves before the May 2014 primary, we may see the emerging coalitions and leaders that will battle in 2015 and 2016. With the 2016 presidential primary now scheduled for February instead of May, North Carolina will certainly play prominently in determining the GOP presidential nominee. And 2014 offers budding presidential campaigns the opportunity for their first dress rehearsal.

Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >

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