But as the year has progressed _ and the dominoes appear to ready to fall due to the looming campaigns of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush _ it appears that one Republican continues to position himself for the 2018 race for governor.
And that's Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam _ who was sworn into a second term this past January.
Of course it's no secret that most Tallahassee insider and Florida politicos think that the former legislator and U.S. congressman will run.
Putnam for his part won't answer the question.
"I'm entirely focused on being the best second term agriculture commissioner I can be and focusing on the issues at hand,'' Putnam said in a recent interview.
But a series of recent events have made it clear that the path is getting clearer for Putnam to be the frontrunner.
1: The other Cabinet official seen as a potential rival _ Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater _ is angling for a run for the U.S. Senate. Atwater was spotted last week in DC with a well-known Republican consultant in tow.
Atwater's main target would be the seat held by Rubio should the Miami Republican do as expected and jump into the race for president. Rubio has said several times now that he will not seek re-election if he runs for president. That has led to a lot of anticipation that Republicans will quickly jump into action should Rubio make it official. But Atwater is also apparently willing to wait until 2018 and run for the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson if Rubio suddenly changes course.
2. While there is buzz among Tallahassee insiders that Rubio is really angling for the 2018 governor's race himself _ there are others who insist this is just idle gossip and that a presidential bid by Rubio would in fact be a serious endeavor regardless of whether former Gov. Bush makes his all-but-official presidential campaign official.
Putnam calls Rubio a "friend and an outstanding public servant" but for his part maintains that Rubio's plans won't affect his thinking.
"I think that when it’s time to make decisions about what you choose to run for it has to be based on your own convictions, and your own views and your own ability to do the best job you can in that role,'' Putnam said. "You can only control what you can control, you can’t worry about things you can’t control."
3. Putnam continues to distance himself from Gov. Rick Scott _ on events such as the ouster of Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald Bailey _ while making sure he pursues his own set of policies that could help give him a record to run on.
The animus between Scott and Putnam dates all the way back to 2011 when Scott insiders viewed Putnam as a potential primary rival in 2014. Scott repeatedly has threatened to veto Putnam's top legislative priorities and even once suggested that he would veto chunks of the budget for Putnam's agency.
This hasn't stopped Putnam. Last year a reworking of the state's utility tax pushed by Putnam was folded into a bill including Scott's tax priorities after Scott said he didn't like Putnam's suggestion. This year it's Putnam emerging as a champion of the House water bill that has come under fire from some environmental groups.
During his first term Putnam got involved in the school lunch program and energy policy. Recently he began drawing attention to the idea of "food deserts" in the state.
Putnam said his efforts reflect a "21st Century model" for what an agriculture department should look like. But he also maintains that he can be a voice for issues that go beyond his office.
"Just as I have a role as the commissioner of agriculture, there’s also a role as a statewide elected official to identify issues of statewide import and to bring a solution,'' said Putnam.
4. Putnam also keeps making sure he says the right things (most of the time) to the conservatives in the GOP.
When Scott surprisingly switched his stance on Medicaid expansion it was Putnam who was one of the first to sharply criticize the governor. He hasn't been as vocal on immigration issues _ which isn't viewed in the same light by those in the agricultural industry as it is among some of the Republican faithful _ but he's spent time criticizing President Barack Obama and the federal government.
This past weekend in a speech Putnam gave to the Federalist Society he complained about problems in D.C. according to Sunshine State News (a Internet site that has shown a propensity to write about issues important to Florida's sugar companies - a key part of the state's agribusiness community.)
Putnam last week was also quick to criticize Obama's Keystone XL pipeline veto and said that the president "failed to meet the needs of the American people."
As a fifth generation Floridian Putnam has shown a deep knowledge of the state, its politics and its history. He is keenly aware of the fault lines. When asked about the Rodman Dam, for example, when discussing his water policy, he sidestepped the question.
That doesn't mean he will get a free pass especially from environmentalists who can remember when as a young legislator he pushed a bill dealing with public lands and water that then Attorney General Bob Butterworth blasted as a land grab. The financial dealings of his family has come under scrutiny as well.
Of course Cabinet agencies rarely get the same kind of scrutiny that is focused on the governor's office or the Legislature.
But that said _ absent a major blunder _ Putnam should be the one to watch on the GOP side for the next four years.