When asked about whether he’s got an eye on the 2016 presidential race, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz likes to say: "My focus is entirely on the U.S. Senate."
At the same time, he’s made moves that have made many skeptical about his insistence that he’s not thinking about running in 2016.
The Tea Party Republican from Texas has made the obligatory pilgrimage to that shrine of presidential campaigning – Iowa, whose caucuses are the opening act of the nomination contest.
In fact, Cruz has gone four times in the last eight months.
His fellow Republican, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who, like Cruz, is Cuban-American, also has been coy about his 2016 plans.
But he, too, has engaged in activities that has many convinced that he’s aiming for the Oval Office.
Rubio has made political appearances in Iowa, and he also has put himself at the forefront of several national and international policy debates.
Last year, he took a lead role in bipartisan Senate efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform. His high profile on that issue made him a fixture on Sunday morning news shows.
He shrank from the spotlight by design, however, after he drew fire from conservatives for backing the provision in a Senate immigration measure – which passed in June – that allowed for a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants.
Now, he's back in the spotlight, this time assailing President Obama for his handling of Russia and Ukraine, and for being too passive over the Venezuelan government’s strong-arm treatment of protesters who have criticized its policies.
Indeed, the two senators are examples of how just about everyone thinking about running for president is kicking it into gear now, slowpokes included.
For months, many prospective 2016 presidential candidates have been rubbing shoulders with donors, networking with party leaders, getting on TV and otherwise auditioning for the contest ahead, especially on the Republican side.
Their pace is picking up. A few are even admitting now what has been obvious for eons: They're interested in the presidency, even if they aren't ready to commit.
Others have avoided the usual pathways, for reasons that make sense to them even if their inscrutability exasperates others. "This is the time to show a little self-restraint," one of them, Jeb Bush, said back in November.
But that was then. He's shed some of that restraint now.
Hillary Rodham Clinton's inscrutability has bottlenecked the Democratic contest because several may decide not to run if she does. Asked in March, for the umpteenth time, about what she's going to do, she responded in her practiced coy fashion. "Give me your name and number," she cracked to a college student imploring her to run. "Obviously, thinking about all kinds of decisions."
But she's been picking up her activities, too. Ready for Hillary, a super PAC, has been busy on her behalf in early organizing. The question remains: When will Hillary be ready for Hillary?
What's clear is that springtime has arrived in 2016 presidential politics. Much more is going on since The Associated Press last took a broad look at who is doing what to get ready for a potential campaign.
Here's a summary of the main players.
For the Democrats, they are Vice President Joe Biden; Clinton, the former secretary of state; New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo; and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
For the Republicans: Cruz, the Texas Republican senator, Rubio, the Florida Republican senator, Bush, the former Florida governor; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
NONDENIAL DENIAL: Cagey words that cloak presidential ambitions, none too convincingly.
Biden: "There may be reasons I don't run, but there's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run." — February, CNN.
Clinton: "I haven't made up my mind. I really have not." — December, ABC.
Cuomo: "I'm sorry, I'm losing you. We have a technical difficulty. I'm running for governor of the state of New York." — Seeming not to hear a question about his presidential intentions. February, Fox Business Network.
O'Malley: "No one ever goes down this road, I would hope, without giving it a lot of consideration and a lot of preparation and a lot of thought work, and so that's what I'm doing." — February.
Bush: "I can honestly tell you that I don't know what I'm going to do." — His standard disclaimer.
Christie: "I am enormously flattered that folks would talk about me in my party as someone who they think could be a candidate for president. But I am absolutely in — nowhere near that consideration process." — Jan. 9 news conference addressing the scandal over Fort Lee, N.J., traffic tie-ups.
Jindal: "My honest answer is I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 2016." — February.
Paul: "We're definitely talking about it, my family is talking about it. I truly won't make my mind up until after the 2014 elections. But I haven't been shy in saying we're thinking about it." —March 9, Fox News.
Perry: "It's a long way down the road." — February, Iowa. Says he'll decide in December.
Rubio: "That's something that I'll consider later in this year, early next year." — March, NBC.
Ryan: "Jane and I are going to sit down in 2015 and give it the serious ... conversation, consideration that are required for keeping our options open. But right now I have responsibilities in the majority in the House of Representatives that I feel I ought to attend to, and then I'll worry about those things." March, CBS.
Santorum: "I'm certainly looking at it pretty seriously." March, Fox.
Walker: "I'm really focused on 2014, not getting ahead of the game. ... You guys can predict all you want." — January, CNN.
WRITING A BOOK: The perfect stage-setter for a campaign season, just ask Barack Obama ("The Audacity of Hope," 2006; "Dreams from My Father," 2004)
Biden: No, not since before 2008 election.
Cuomo: Yes, coming in 2014.
Clinton: Yes, coming in 2014.
O'Malley: No. "I'm not sure where I'd find the time for that." It's probably only a matter of time before he finds time.
Bush: Yes, on immigration.
Cruz: Yes, book deal disclosed by his agent in April.
Jindal: Not since before 2012 election.
Paul: No, not since just before the 2012 election.
Perry: Not since before 2012 election.
Rubio: Yes, coming in late 2014 from the publisher of his 2012 memoir.
Santorum: Yes, coming in 2014.
Ryan: Yes, coming in 2014.
Walker: Yes, out in fall 2013.
GO TO IOWA: Its caucuses are the opening act of the nomination contest.
Biden: Yes, spoke at Sen. Tom Harkin's fall 2013 steak-fry fundraiser, a must-stop for many Democrats seeking to compete in the leadoff caucuses. Raised money for Iowa congressional candidate Jim Mowrer.
Clinton: No, avoiding big primary/caucus states. But Ready for Hillary is mobilizing for her in the state.
O'Malley: Yes, headlined Harkin's 2012 fundraiser.
Bush: Yes, in 2012.
Christie: Yes, in 2012. More travel driven by politics in the cards now that he's chairman of Republican Governors Association for 2014 election year.
Cruz: Yes, four visits in eight months. In March, addressed influential Network of Iowa Christian Home Educators in Des Moines and GOP event in Mason City.
Jindal: Yes, summer 2013 visit, then flew with Iowa governor to governors association meeting in Milwaukee. In Iowa seven times in 2012.
Paul: Yes, three times in 2013. In March, snagged the state GOP chairman, who announced he was quitting to join Paul as an adviser.
Perry: Yes, visited Des Moines suburbs and Davenport in February, meeting GOP activists and attending an event with business leaders sponsored by the Koch brothers' Americans For Prosperity. Also met with Gov. Terry Branstad and addressed a Des Moines crowd of 400 in November.
Rubio: Yes, in 2012 just days after the election. A new wave of visits to early voting states expected.
Ryan: Yes, keynote speaker for Iowa GOP's big fundraising dinner in Cedar Rapids this spring. Main speaker at governor's annual birthday fundraiser in November 2013, in first visit since 2012 campaign.
Santorum: Yes, recent visit with strategists and media. August 2013 speech to conservative Christians in state where he won the 2012 caucuses. Screened his new Christmas movie in Iowa in November.
Walker: Yes, fundraiser last year.
GO TO NEW HAMPSHIRE: Nation's first primary comes after Iowa and is just as important.
Biden: Yes, raised money for three Democrats in March visit for job-training event. Quipped: "I'm here about jobs — not mine."
Clinton: No. But Ready for Hillary has sent people there this year.
O'Malley: Yes, spoke at Democratic Party dinner in November. Also spoke at 2012 convention of New Hampshire Democrats.
Christie: Yes, three times in 2012.
Cruz: Yes, two April trips and one last year.
Jindal: Yes, keynote speech to local Republican organization in March, headlined state GOP fundraiser in 2013, visited twice in 2012.
Paul: Yes, visiting state for spring events in Dover and Manchester. Won straw poll at March meeting of Northeast Republican Leadership Conference in Nashua. Several visits last year.
Rubio: Yes, making his first appearance of the 2016 season, in May, at county Republican dinner. Multiple visits before 2012 election.
Ryan: Yes, headlined Manchester fundraiser in February for former House colleague. Canceled October 2013 visit because of government shutdown.
Santorum: Yes, March speech to Northeast Republican Leadership Conference marked his return to a state where he performed weakly in 2012 campaign.
Walker: Yes, headlined a GOP state convention in October 2013, keynote at state party convention in September 2012.
DON'T FORGET SOUTH CAROLINA: First Southern primary and big in its own right.
Biden: Yes, headlined annual fundraising dinner in May 2013 for state party, appeared at Rep. James Clyburn's annual fish fry, Easter weekend vacation on Kiawah Island.
O'Malley: Yes, 2013 speech to party activists.
Bush: Yes, 2012 speech.
Christie: Yes, helped Mitt Romney raise money in 2012.
Cruz: Yes, "Pastors and Pews" event in November 2013, cultivating relationship with religious conservatives. Also visited in May, speaking to annual state GOP dinner.
Jindal: Yes, August fundraiser for Gov. Nikki Haley.
Paul: Yes, foreign policy speech at The Citadel military college and small GOP fundraiser in Charleston in November 2013 visit; headlined several fundraisers earlier in year.
Perry: Yes, two-day visit in December 2013, addressed state GOP. In August, raised money for Haley's re-election campaign.
Rubio: Yes, headlined 2012 Silver Elephant dinner.
Ryan: Yes, in 2012 campaign.
Santorum: Yes. Campaigned in April 2013 for Curtis Bostic in GOP House runoff race; Bostic lost.
Walker: Yes, attended August fundraiser for Haley, who came to Wisconsin to campaign for him in 2012 recall vote.
GO ABROAD: Helps to give neophytes foreign policy cred, and Israel is a touchstone for U.S. politicians.
Biden: Yes, globe-trotter. Poland and Lithuania in March, seven trips to the Americas since 2009, including March visit to Chile. December 2013 visits to China, Japan and South Korea, countless trips to Afghanistan and Iraq during wars.
Clinton: Another globe-trotter, nearly 1 million miles as secretary of state. Limited overseas travel in 2013: honorary degree at St. Andrews University in Scotland in September; trip to London in October for a diplomacy award and a fundraising concert for the family's foundation. Attended memorial services for Nelson Mandela in South Africa in December. Two recent speeches in Canada.
Cuomo: Not much lately. Israel twice in 2002.
O'Malley: Yes. Israel in 2013 this year for a second time. Also Denmark, Ireland, France, Brazil and El Salvador in 2013. Asia in 2011, Iraq in 2010.
Bush: Yes, usually several overseas trips a year. Three times to Israel since 1980s.
Christie: Yes, Israel and Jordan in 2012.
Cruz: Yes, first visit to Israel in December 2012, again in January 2013 as part of Senate Republican delegation that traveled to Afghanistan, too.
Jindal: January 2014 trade and investment mission to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, first time overseas as governor. Canada in August 2013 to speak to oil industry about his support of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
Paul: Yes, Israel and Jordan in January.
Perry: Yes, recently back from Israel, latest of several trips there. Stopped in London to see British officials and financial leaders.
Rubio: Yes, visited the Philippines, Japan and South Korea in January, foreign policy speech in London in early December and Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority, Afghanistan in February 2013. Also went to Israel after 2010 election to Senate.
Ryan: Yes, Middle East during congressional career; visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Santorum: Scant foreign travel while in the Senate drew notice in 2012 GOP campaign.
Walker: Yes, China in 2013 trade mission.
MEET THE MONEY: To know donors now is to tap them later.
Biden: Yes, actively fundraising for Democratic committees and candidates in 2014 midterms. Headlined fundraiser at home of Biden donor in Florida for House candidate Alex Sink in February; Sink lost the special election in March.
Clinton: Yes, can tap deep well of Democratic and activist money. Raises money for Clinton foundation. Bundlers such as Hollywood moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban have signaled support. Ready for Hillary super PAC raised more than $4 million in 2013. Worked fundraising circuit to help Terry McAuliffe's campaign for governor in Virginia and Bill de Blasio's mayoral bid in New York City.
Cuomo: Flush coffers for 2014 governor's race.
O'Malley: Yes, in December ended his year as finance chairman for the Democratic Governors Association and is one of the party's top fundraisers.
Bush: Yes, longtime connections on Wall Street and beyond. Flew to Las Vegas in March to meet GOP super donor Sheldon Adelson. In February, his short video for GOP fundraiser at Donald Trump's Palm Beach, Fla., estate was a bigger hit than Cruz's keynote speech. Party in summer of 2013 for his immigration book at home of Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and a leading Republican bundler.
Christie: Yes, became GOP governors chairman in November, giving him regular access to the party's top national donors. In that capacity, has already met donors in Idaho, Vermont, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts and Utah. Was one of a handful of high-profile Republicans to meet with Adelson in Las Vegas at his resort casino in late March. One of three prospective candidates who attended Mitt Romney's retreat with major party donors in Utah in June 2013.
Cruz: Yes, met in March with top California conservative donors and keynoted Trump fundraiser. Has list of potential donors that's still growing after he collected more than 1.5 million signatures for the online petition "Don'tFundObamaCare," which he began in 2013.
Jindal: Yes, met leading GOP donors in New York City, as most GOP prospects do over time. Among prospective candidates who visited Iowa GOP donor Bruce Rastetter's farm in August 2013 for annual fundraiser for the governor.
Paul: Yes, attended Romney's 2013 Utah retreat. Met GOP donors in New York City.
Perry: Yes, has proven an effective fundraiser, both from grassroots activists and mainstream Republicans. Has led many job-poaching missions in big states with Democratic governors and met privately during those trips with key donors, especially in New York and California.
Rubio: Yes, aggressive national fundraising outreach, including trips to New York and California to meet potential donors. Among a handful of possible candidates to attend September 2013 event at home of Woody Johnson, New York Jets' owner and Mitt Romney's national finance chairman.
Ryan: Yes, attracts Wall Street interest, attended Romney's 2013 Utah retreat, has money connections from 2012 campaign.
Santorum: 2012 shoestring campaign was largely fueled by a super political action committee to which Republican donor Foster Friess gave more than $2 million.
Walker: Yes, addressed Republican Jewish Coalition at a Las Vegas gathering in March where main attraction was Adelson, who's looking where to place his bets in GOP field. Headlined 2013 fundraisers in New York and Connecticut.
NETWORK LIKE MAD: Taking their case to ideologues, activists and party heavyweights who hold great sway in nomination race.
Biden: And how. Plans to campaign in more than 100 races in the 2014 election. Meets regularly with former Senate colleagues and congressional Democrats. Gives keynote speeches at annual state Democratic Party dinners across the country. Making calls for House Democrats' campaign organization, assisting in recruitment of candidates. Campaigned for new Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. Speaks regularly to special interests.
Clinton: Steady presence now on speaking circuit, delivering paid speeches to industry groups and conferences and appearing before a number of groups with ties to the Democratic coalition.
Cuomo: Sparingly. Rarely leaves New York.
O'Malley: Yes, busy spring, with speeches to California Democratic state convention in March, Wisconsin Democrats in April and Massachusetts Democrats in May. Was Democratic governors' chairman for two years until December 2012.
Bush: Doing more this year. Recent travels to Tennessee, New Mexico, Nevada and Texas. Skipped Conservative Political Action Conference in March, after giving keynote speech to the influential group a year earlier.
Christie: Yes, vigorous outreach now as the new Republican Governors Association chairman. Also spoke in March to Conservative Political Action Conference, which snubbed him last year. Addressed Republican Jewish Coalition spring meeting in Las Vegas, spending a full day with top donors and GOP operatives.
Cruz: Yes, addressed Conservative Political Action Conference in March, after landing the group's coveted keynote role in 2013. Persistent courting of religious and economic conservatives in Texas and beyond. Pitched social conservative principles at Values Voter meeting in October. Addressed 2012 Republican National Convention before he was even elected to the Senate.
Jindal: Yes, big time and small time, far and wide. Addressed Conservative Political Action Conference in March, also in 2013. Made time for fundraiser for local sheriff in Michigan. Altogether, has spent much of his time during six years as governor on the road, talking to GOP and activist groups in other states, supporting Republican candidates and promoting his achievements. Created political action committee in March to help conservative candidates running for Congress.
Paul: Yes, plenty. Generated buzz and won symbolic straw poll at Conservative Political Action Conference in March. Campaigned in fall 2013 for GOP candidates in Virginia governor's race and Senate election in New Jersey. Met Michigan Republicans in September. Pitched social conservative principles at Values Voter meeting in October, and much more.
Perry: Conservative Political Action Conference, March 2013, and its regional meeting in St. Louis in September. RedState Gathering in New Orleans in August; job-pitching tour in various states helps make connections.
Rubio: Yes, conservative and party activists, focused lately on repairing tea party relationships strained over immigration. Well-received speech to Conservative Political Action Conference in March. In Virginia governor's race, campaigned for Republican Ken Cuccinelli, who lost.
Ryan: Yes, prime networker as 2012 vice presidential candidate; now helping fellow House members raise money.
Santorum: Opened 2014 with Texas speech to conservative think tank and followed with speech to Conservative Political Action Conference. Speeches around the country. His Christian-themed film company is his calling card with religious conservatives.
Walker: One of only a few 2016 prospects who spoke to Republican Jewish Coalition. Skipped the big Conservative Political Action Conference in March, appeared there last year. Campaigned for GOP in Virginia governor's race. Spoke to Michigan Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island in September 2013.
HOG THE TV: Achieving national recognition by sermonizing on the Sunday news shows, or going for soft questions and easy laughs on late-night TV.
Biden: He's back. After being largely absent from the airwaves for more than a year, Biden has resumed frequent interviews, including a TV blitz the morning after the State of the Union and a CNN interview aboard an Amtrak train. He even dished on his skin care routine and his wife's oddball pranks during an interview with Rachael Ray to promote the health care law. But not a Sunday news show fixture.
Clinton: No. But late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel interviewed her in March. Appeared with Obama on CBS' "60 Minutes" in January to talk about tenure as secretary of state; gave interview to Barbara Walters late in 2013.
Cuomo: No. Prefers radio.
O'Malley: Getting back in the swing. January 2014 Sunday news show appearance on CNN was first in months, followed by CBS in February.
Bush: Blanketed the five Sunday shows one day in March 2013 to plug his book on immigration, a few appearances other times.
Christie: Not so much since traffic scandal surfaced. Before that, liked to cut up on late-night TV. Four Sunday news shows after his 2013 re-election.
Cruz: Yes, several Sunday news show appearances already this year, plenty last year. Frequent guest on Fox News and CNN.
Jindal: No, only a couple of Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election.
Paul: Leader of the chattering pack with more than a dozen Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election. Fast out of the 2014 gate with Jan. 5 appearance on ABC. Frequent guest on news networks, especially Fox.
Perry: Raising his profile lately, making several national TV appearances while starring in flood of media spots in California designed to persuade businesses based there to move to Texas. Only a few Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election, including one in February with three other governors.
Rubio: Staying on par with most rivals in Sunday news show appearances. Blanketed all five Sunday shows one day in April 2013, before he dropped the subject of immigration; made several other appearances since. Frequent guest on news networks.
Ryan: Many Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election. Occasional guest on network news.
Santorum: Plugged Christmas movie on "The Colbert Report," Fox News, MSNBC and more. Radio, too. Teamed up with Democrat Howard Dean as sparring partners for debates on the air and with audiences.
Walker: Already on the Sunday news show scoreboard for 2014. Half dozen or so Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election. Also, Piers Morgan, Lou Dobbs, more national TV interviews.
ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING: For voters who want to support doers, not just talkers.
Biden: Leading Obama's review of federal job-training programs. Point man on gun control, which failed. Lots on foreign policy. Negotiated fiscal cliff deal. December 2013 trip to Asia put him front and center in regional dispute over China's new air defense zone.
Clinton: Record as secretary of state, senator and first lady. Recent initiatives to help children's health and education and status of women.
Cuomo: 2014 budget proposal calls for tax cuts for businesses, homeowners and renters. In 2013, pushed through nation's first gun-control law after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Led New York's effort to legalize same-sex marriage in 2011. Minimum wage boost, on-time budgets, teacher standards.
O'Malley: Toughened gun laws, repealed death penalty, saw voters approve gay marriage after he got behind legislation to approve it, set up a framework to develop offshore wind power, won legislative approval in April of minimum wage increase, a 2014 priority.
Bush: As Florida governor, revamped state educational system, cut taxes, managed state through hurricanes.
Cruz: Leading force in dispute that partly shut the government, 21-hour Senate speech against Obama's health law. Argued before U.S. Supreme Court nine times, with eight of those coming while he was Texas' longest-serving solicitor general, between 2003 and 2008.
Christie: Won November 2013 re-election, becoming first Republican to earn more than 50 percent of New Jersey vote in quarter-century. Led state's response to Superstorm Sandy. Agreed to expand state's Medicaid program under the new health law while some other Republican governors have refused to do so. Vetoed a bill that would have sanctioned gay marriage, but declined to appeal a court ruling that legalized it.
Jindal: Privatized much of Louisiana's Medicaid program, shrank public hospital system, signed statewide voucher program that covers private school tuition for certain students. Signed abortion restrictions, fought liberalization of adoption law, making it impossible for gay couples to adopt jointly. Hurricane and Gulf oil spill disaster response.
Paul: One-man, nearly 13-hour Senate filibuster to protest drone policy put him at forefront of civil liberties debate.
Perry: "Texas Miracle" job-creation boom has seen state create a third of the net new jobs nationwide over last decade, although Texas has disproportionately high percentage of hourly workers earning minimum wage or less. Helped muscle through new abortion restrictions.
Rubio: Broker of Senate immigration overhaul, though he's gone quiet on the issue. Early leader of effort to link financing of health care law to government shutdown. Working with anti-abortion groups on Senate version of bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Ryan: Negotiated December 2013 bipartisan budget deal that scaled back across-the-board spending cuts, drawing contrast with potential rivals who opposed it. Budget-hawk record to be judged on. Emerging as influential moderate on immigration.
Santorum: Making Christian-themed, family-friendly movies at the moment; record from Senate days.
Walker: Curbs on public service unions became national flashpoint, but he won the effort — and the recall election that followed.
TAKE A NATIONAL STAND: Effective state governance is nice but leaders must build national stature on issues of the day.
Biden: Eclectic. Guns, violence against women, gay rights, veterans.
Clinton: Eclectic. 2013 speeches focused on the economy, housing, opportunities for women, voting rights.
Cuomo: Environmentalists nationally and the energy industry are closely watching his pending decision whether to allow fracking in upstate New York counties near the Pennsylvania line.
O'Malley: The liberal checklist: more spending on education, infrastructure, transportation; supports same-sex marriage, immigration reform, repealing death penalty, pushes environmental protections.
Bush: Education, immigration, economy.
Christie: Moderate on the reach and functions of government; bipartisanship.
Cruz: Anti-Obama's health care law, pushes broader tea party agenda.
Jindal: A record of privatization to show he means government should be trimmed, happy to carry a social conservative banner.
Paul: Tea party plus. Fiscal conservative, criticizes surveillance state. Praised Supreme Court gay marriage ruling as one that avoids "culture war." Health law scold. Joining in 2014 with liberal lawmakers and others in effort to roll back some mandatory minimum sentences and give judges more flexibility in fitting punishment to crime.
Perry: Prominent voice on conservative issues since before the birth of the tea party. Wants to ban all abortion in Texas, relax environmental regulations, boost states' rights; opposes gay marriage.
Rubio: 2014 initiative on poverty calls for federal wage supplements for some low-wage workers instead of earned income tax credit. Economy, abortion, tea party fiscal conservatism; immigration liberalization if he decides to get back to it. Another voice against health care law.
Ryan: Cutting spending, taking on entitlements, rolling back Obama's health law. Anti-poverty initiative this year.
Santorum: Social conservative activism goes way back. Focus on blue-collar economic opportunity.
Walker: Fiscal stewardship, from a GOP point of view. Tough guy against the unions and liberal defenders of the status quo. Says GOP in Congress is the party of no.
BAGGAGE TO CHECK: It's never too early to deal with skeletons in the closet; rivals will be rattling them soon enough.
Biden: Flubs, fibs, age. Deflection: "I am who I am." Saddled by Obama's low approval ratings.
Clinton: Benghazi, Libya; polarizing when political, age. GOP wants to pin blame on her for vulnerability of U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya that came under deadly attack in 2012. In long-confidential documents from Bill Clinton's administration, advisers urged her to "be real" and "humanize" herself, revealing concerns about her authenticity as a public figure.
Cuomo: New York economy is dragging, his poll numbers have sunk, went through public and bitter divorce with Kerry Kennedy, daughter of late Sen. Robert Kennedy, in 2005.
O'Malley: State-run health insurance exchange website was an expensive bust, prompting officials to make an embarrassing switch in April to one based on Connecticut's. Contraband- and drug-smuggling scheme at state-run Baltimore City Detention Center that resulted in 44 people being indicted has state lawmakers looking to make reforms. Has record of raising taxes that could be challenged by less liberal Democrats, never mind Republicans.
Bush: The Bush factor. Does the country want a Bush dynasty after presidents George H. W. and George W.? Some education and immigration positions are out of step with the right.
Christie: If you have to declare "I am not a bully," you've got a problem. Apologized in January 2014 for highway lane closures apparently ordered by his aides as retribution against a mayor who did not endorse him for re-election. Also fired his deputy chief of staff and denied knowledge of the machinations. Episode deepened questions about what Christie, or those around him, will do to win, and contributed to a significant drop in his poll standings. Investigations continue.
Cruz: Reputation as a hotheaded upstart, also part of his appeal. Polarizing within his party. Also comes with birther baggage: Questions have been raised in some quarters about his constitutional standing to become president because of his birth in Canada, to a Cuban father and American mother. Deflection: Promised last summer to renounce Canadian citizenship, but hasn't.
Jindal: Ambitious plan to replace state's personal and corporate taxes with higher sales taxes flopped, delivered dud of a speech when given juicy platform of responding to Obama's first presidential address to Congress in 2009. Deflection: Poking fun at himself. Jindal administration's award of a $200 million Medicaid contract is under investigation by state and federal grand juries.
Paul: Dear old dad: Must move beyond Ron Paul's fringe reputation. Bridge-burning in Congress endears him to tea party, could bite him otherwise. Deflection: GOP outreach to minorities. The Washington Times canceled his column after he was found to have used passages from other people in his speeches and writings as if they were his own. Deflection: Promising proper citations and footnotes for his pronouncements "if it will make people leave me the hell alone."
Perry: "Oops!" Memories of his stumbling 2012 campaign, a quick progression from a front-runner to flameout. Deflection: Poked fun at himself for forgetting in a GOP debate one of the federal departments he would close as president, Energy.
Rubio: Rift with tea party constituency on immigration, "a real trial for me." Deflection: Go aggressive on a matter of common ground, which he did in pledging to take apart the health law. And stop talking about immigration. Response to Obama's 2013 State of the Union speech was remembered only for his clumsy reach for water. Deflection: Made fun of himself.
Ryan: Budget axe cuts both ways — catnip to conservatives but people want their Medicare. Carries stigma of 2012 election loss as running mate. Tea party not happy with his late 2013 budget deal. Comments in March about cultural "tailspin" in inner cities struck some as veiled racism. Deflection: Called his remark "inarticulate."
Santorum: Overshadowed by newer conservative figures. Deflection: Being overshadowed means being an underdog, and he can thrive at that. Feisty 2012 campaign became the biggest threat to Romney's march to the nomination.
Walker: Some things that give him huge appeal with GOP conservatives — taking on unions, most notably — would whip up Democratic critics in general election. Wisconsin has lagged in job creation. Release of emails in February shed light on criminal investigation into whether Walker's aides were illegally doing campaign work for the 2010 governor's election while being paid as county employees. Walker, then a county executive, wasn't charged but the episode has proved a distraction.
RUN SHADOW CAMPAIGN: One way to run without running is to have a political action committee to promote ideas or other candidates for office, or to hire advisers who can switch to a campaign when the time comes.
Biden: Constrained by his current job, but tapped longtime adviser and former lobbyist Steve Ricchetti to be his new chief of staff; maintains close contact with political advisers past and present.
Clinton: Ready for Hillary super PAC set up by supporters is laying groundwork, so are others. Several old Clinton hands are advising the group, including Craig T. Smith and Harold Ickes.
Cuomo: Overshadowed by Clinton's shadow campaign. Considered a likely contender if Clinton ends up not running.
O'Malley: Set up a PAC called O'Say Can You See and hired two people for fundraising and communications.
Bush: He's a Bush, so he's got connections. Sally Bradshaw, chief of staff when he was governor, is his go-to political person.
Cruz: Has leadership PAC, Jobs Growth and Economic Freedom. Has been one of the largest beneficiaries of Jim DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund and has gotten millions of dollars and grassroots logistical support from the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Ending Spending PAC. Heritage Action PAC helped sponsor Cruz's summer anti-health-law trip around Texas and country. Chief of staff Chip Roy ghostwrote Perry's 2010 book about federal overreach.
Christie: Republican Governors Association chairmanship allows him to grow his national profile with voters and party officials with regular travel and key appearances. Began building broad coalition of donors through his national fundraising tour in spring 2013. But the shadow of the traffic scandal still hangs over his shadow campaign.
Jindal: Created Washington-based nonprofit, America Next, in October 2013 to push policy ideas nationally. For executive director, tapped Jill Neunaber, who worked on Romney's presidential campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire. In March created PAC to help conservative candidates.
Paul: Has formidable leadership PAC called Rand PAC, has maintained ties to father's political network in early primary states and benefits from strong tea party support.
Perry: Created Americans for Economic Freedom PAC in fall 2013 to raise his profile again, help him test the waters and broadcast ads promoting Republican leadership around the country. Group used more than $200,000 left over from the PAC that raised millions for his 2012 campaign.
Rubio: Expects to begin more aggressive travel to early voting states in 2014. Reclaim America PAC led by former deputy chief of staff, Terry Sullivan, veteran of South Carolina politics, expected to be active behind GOP candidates across country in 2014 midterms.
Ryan: His Prosperity Action PAC.
Santorum: Keeps in touch with chief supporters of his winning 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, giving him a leg up on a campaign organization in that state.
Walker: Consults with top Republican governor strategists such as Phil Musser and Nick Ayers.
GET WITH IT ON SOCIAL MEDIA: A must for spreading ideas, poking competitors, raising money, organizing events and showing a personal side, though often a very canned version.
Biden: Not active on Facebook, occasional contributor to his office's vigorous Twitter account.
Clinton: More than 1 million followers on Twitter, her preferred social media outlet.
Cuomo: Few if any personal tweets; Facebook also generated primarily by staff.
O'Malley: On Twitter, standard governor's fare but promotes rare appearances by his Celtic rock band, O'Malley's March, for which he sings and plays guitar, banjo and tin whistle. On Facebook, his PAC-generated page is more active than official governor's account.
Bush: Tweets and posts many Wall Street Journal stories, education thoughts and some Bush family doings.
Christie: More engaged in Twitter ("It was great to be able to visit with the owners of Rossi's Rent-A-Rama in Ortley today.") than Facebook.
Cruz: Active on Facebook and Twitter, much content is pumped out by staff.
Jindal: Active on Twitter and on Facebook, where he lists among favorite books, "John Henry Newman: A Biography," about recently canonized British cardinal and sage. Also favors James Bond movies.
Paul: Aggressive. Bragged on Twitter in June that he'd attracted more than 1 million likes for his Facebook page, where he lists his own books as his favorites.
Perry: Active. One popular tweet was accidental — from his pocket, he said — and consisted of "I." Followers jumped in to complete his sentence. One offered: "I ... really like Obamacare." (He doesn't.) Facebook appears staff-generated.
Rubio: Aggressive, with large followings, appears to make personal use of Twitter more than staff-generated Facebook. Takes lots of shots at the health law. On Facebook, lists "Pulp Fiction" movie and "The Tudors" historical fiction TV series among favorites.
Ryan: King of Facebook among potential rivals in both parties, with nearly 4.9 million likes. Seeks $10 donations for "Team Ryan" bumper stickers for his PAC and kisses a fish. Posts photo of Obama with his feet up on Oval Office desk. Commanding presence on Twitter, too, via an account associated with his PAC and another as congressman.
Santorum: Active on Twitter and Facebook, where he relentlessly plugged his new movie and goes after the health law.
Walker: Posts vigorously on Facebook and on his Twitter accounts. Many exclamation points. "Glad USDA is keeping cranberries on school menus. I drink several bottles of cranberry juice each day!" And, "Green Bay Packers signing Julius Peppers to a 3-year deal is HUGE!" Promotes policy achievements and his TV appearances, reflects on sports, pokes Obama.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.