Huffpost Politics

Potential Presidential Candidates Already Gearing Up For 2016 Election

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RICK PERRY
Texas Gov. Rick Perry is interviewed at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

By CALVIN WOODWARD, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON (AP) — The 2016 presidential campaign is well underway. Not in name, so much, but rather in the deeds of more than a dozen people who might run.

They've been busy plugging holes in resumes, getting known on TV, networking with activists and party luminaries, taking early steps to build campaign organizations and much more. Most are methodically ticking off items on what could be called the presidential prep checklist, and they've picked up that pace since The Associated Press last took a broad look at who's doing what to advance their high ambitions.

The main players: For the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; and for the Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

An updated look at the field in motion as an even more demanding political year approaches:

DEMOCRATS

BIDEN:

Non-denial denial: "Oh, we'll talk about that." With a chuckle, to Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli in November 2013 when asked about running in 2016.

Book: Not lately. Could be time for a sequel to "Promises to Keep" from '07, though his position as vice president might constrain him.

Iowa: Yes, spoke at Sen. Tom Harkin's fall 2013 steak-fry fundraiser. Raised money for Iowa congressional candidate Jim Mowrer. Schmoozed with Iowa power brokers during 2013 inauguration week in Washington. (Poor Iowa caucuses showing knocked him out of the 2008 presidential race.)

New Hampshire: Not since 2012 campaign. Canceled planned 2013 fundraiser for New Hampshire's Democratic governor due to son's health scare.

South Carolina: Yes. Headlined annual fundraising dinner in May for South Carolina Democratic Party, a speculation stoker in big primary state. Appeared at prominent South Carolina Rep. James Clyburn's annual fish fry. Spent Easter weekend this year with wife at South Carolina's Kiawah Island, near Charleston. Vacationed there for a week in 2009 as well.

Foreign travel: You bet. Frequent foreign travel and plenty of foreign policy experience by former chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Countless trips to Iraq and Afghanistan during President Barack Obama's first term. Already been to India, Singapore, Rome, Brazil, Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, and more. In December 2013 visits to China, Japan and South Korea, served as Obama's point man in dispute over China's contentious new air-defense zone.

Meet the money: Regularly schmoozes contributors at private receptions. Helping Democratic campaign committees raise money from big-dollar donors before 2014 midterms.

Networking: And how. Meets regularly with former Senate colleagues and congressional Democrats. Cozied up to important players during inauguration week, including reception for activists from New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina among other states; dropped into the Iowa ball, met environmental and Hispanic activists. Gives keynote speeches at annual state Democratic Party dinners across the country. Making calls for House Democrats' campaign organization, assisting in recruitment of candidates to run next year. Speech to South Carolina Dems. Campaigned for new Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, new Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey. Speaks regularly to special interests. One week in May: Monday, spoke to religious leaders at the White House; Tuesday, voting rights talk with African Americans; Wednesday, immigration talk with Asian Americans; Thursday, meeting with firefighters about Boston bombing. And on the fifth day, he rested.

Hog the TV: No, not lately.

Do something: Point man on gun control, which failed. Lots with foreign policy. Leading administration's efforts to engage more with Latin America. Called on to lobby former Senate colleagues on Syria, Iran. Visiting ports across the U.S. to promote infrastructure and exports. Point man on Violence Against Women Act. Credited with pushing Obama to embrace gay marriage. Called upon by the administration to be a go-between with the Senate. Negotiated fiscal cliff deal.

Take a stand: Guns. Violence against women. Gay rights. Veterans. He's touched on everything as senator and vice president.

Baggage: Age, flubs, fibs. White-haired Biden would be 74 by Inauguration Day 2017. His deflection: unfailing enthusiasm and a busy schedule. Habit of ad-libbing and wandering off reservation is a turnoff to some, endearing to others. Biden's response: "I am who I am." A tendency to embellish a good story dates to first run for president, when he appropriated material from the life story of a British politician, sometimes without attribution. Despite policy gravitas, Pew Research polling recently found public perceives him as not so bright, clownish. Those who like him in polling say he's honest and good. A new book reveals Obama's aides considered replacing Biden with Clinton on the 2012 ticket, but Obama has said he never would have entertained it.

Shadow campaign: Tapped longtime adviser and former lobbyist Steve Ricchetti to be his new chief of staff starting in December 2013. Maintains close contact with his political advisers past and present. Creating a shadow campaign would be difficult too soon in Obama's second term as the public perception could hasten Obama's lame-duck status.

Social media: His office actively promotes his public appearances on Twitter, including more humanizing moments like a shared train ride with Whoopi Goldberg and, on his 71st birthday, a photo of him as a young boy. Not active on Facebook, occasionally contributes to his office's Twitter account. Narrates "Being Biden" photo series showing him behind the scenes.

(Contributor: Josh Lederman)

___

CLINTON:

Non-denial denial: "I'm not in any hurry. I think it's a serious decision, not to be made lightly, but it's also not one that has to be made soon." — To New York magazine, September 2013.

Book: Yes — again. Previously published author has a new book expected in 2014.

Iowa: No. Steering clear of the early caucus/primary states. (Third-place shocker in 2008 caucuses won by Obama portended scrappy nomination fight to come.)

New Hampshire: No. (Beat Obama in 2008 primary to regain traction in nomination contest.)

South Carolina: No. (Distant second to Obama in 2008 primary.)

Foreign travel: Do birds fly? Former secretary of state doesn't need to globe-trot any time soon. Spent 401 days overseas, flying nearly 1 million miles. 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.

Meet the money: No, but can tap deep well of Democratic and activist money. Supporters launched a super PAC, Ready for Hillary, in January to support another presidential run and a constellation of outside groups including super PACs Priorities USA and American Bridge could help a potential campaign. Prominent bundlers such as Hollywood moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and Haim Saban have signaled support. Clinton worked fundraising circuit to help McAuliffe's campaign for governor in Virginia and Bill de Blasio's mayoral bid in New York City. Both won.

Networking: A steady presence now on the speaking circuit, delivering paid speeches to industry groups and conferences and appearing before a number of groups with ties to the Democratic coalition.

Hog the TV: No. Clinton has not sat for any televised interviews since conducting a round of exit interviews when she departed the State Department. One of those included a joint appearance with Obama on CBS's "60 Minutes." NBC dropped a planned miniseries about her under pressure both from her allies and from Republicans.

Do something: For now, a record to be judged on as secretary of state, senator and first lady. Through the Clinton Foundation, she has launched an initiative to help children's health and a separate partnership to promote women and girls.

Take a stand: You name it, she's had something to say about it in her varied political life. Recent speeches have focused on the economy, housing, opportunities for women and finance. Obama objected to her proposed individual mandate for health insurance in 2008 campaign — a contentious idea then and now — only to adopt it in office. She backed Obama's threats to use force in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria and said it was the reason Russia urged Syria to get rid of its stockpile. She has said the health care overhaul should be implemented and improved where necessary.

Baggage: Age; Benghazi, Libya; politics. She would be 69 on Inauguration Day. She lived through some grueling days as secretary of state. She counters with a serious spunk factor and memories of her energetic schedule as top diplomat. Republicans would love to pin blame on her for last year's deadly assault on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. She does just fine politically, until she gets political. Then her old enemies come out of the woodwork.

Shadow campaign: Keeping a traditional shadow campaign at arm's length for now. Ready for Hillary super PAC has received endorsements from Democrats such as Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm; several old Clinton hands are advising the group, including Craig T. Smith and Harold Ickes. The group is encouraging Clinton to run and trying to lay a foundation of grassroots supporters for a campaign if Clinton chooses to pursue one.

Social media: Nearly 1 million followers on Twitter, her preferred social media outlet. Tweeted congrats to Diana Nyad after her record-setting Cuba-to-Florida swim: "Flying to 112 countries is a lot until you consider swimming between 2. Feels like I swim with sharks — but you actually did it! Congrats!"

(Contributor: Ken Thomas)

___

CUOMO:

Non-denial denial: Concerning a presidential poll suggesting New Yorkers prefer New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to him: "It said Chris Christie has better numbers for president than I do. Yeah, because he's running for president, and I am not." — November 2013.

Writing a book: Yes. Coming in 2014 from HarperCollins. "Profound moments" of the New York governor's first term in office plus "a full and frank account" of his private life.

Go to Iowa: No. Has stayed close to home, avoids most travel that would feed speculation of campaign ambitions.

Go to New Hampshire: No.

South Carolina: No.

Foreign travel: Yes, but not lately. Visited Israel twice in 2002 when running for Democratic nomination for governor.

Meet the money: Yes, attended a December 2011 California fundraiser held for his 2014 governor's re-election campaign by advocates of same-sex marriage. Cocktails: $1,000 a ticket, dinner; $12,500 a ticket. Facing little opposition in 2014, he's socked away millions for the campaign.

Networking: Sparingly. Rarely leaves New York state. Did not appear at Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year, choosing instead to hold a side event for New York delegates at a Charlotte hotel. Skipped national governors meeting in August.

Hog the TV: No, mostly avoids it, prefers radio. After being named sexiest 55-year-old by People magazine in November, called into the CNN show hosted by his brother, Chris, to rub it in. Asked why he doesn't go on Sunday news shows, he told The New York Times, "Then you would say I'm running for president."

Do something: Led New York's effort to legalize same-sex marriage in 2011. This year, pushed through the nation's first gun-control law after the Newtown, Conn., school massacre. Minimum wage boost, on-time budgets, teacher standards.

Take a national stand: 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.

Baggage: Trumpets "remarkable string of accomplishments" in the state but record-high poll numbers have sunk to lowest yet. State economy grew at slower pace than national rate in 2012. Deflection: "I'm focusing on running this state and doing it the best I can. And that's all there is to that." Cuomo's first marriage to Kerry Kennedy, daughter of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, ended in a public and bitter divorce in 2005. Cuomo lives with Food Network star Sandra Lee.

Shadow campaign: Overshadowed by Clinton's shadow campaign. Considered a likely contender if Clinton ends up not running.

Social media: Few if any personal tweets; Facebook also generated primarily by staff.

(Contributor: Michael Gormley, Albany, N.Y.)

___

O'MALLEY:

Non-denial: "By the end of this year, we're on course to have a body of work that lays the framework of the candidacy for 2016." An acknowledgment of presidential ambition that is rare in the field.

Book: No. "I'm very busy doing what I'm doing," O'Malley said in November 2013. "Where would I ever find the time to do something like that?"

Iowa: Yes, in fall 2012 headlined Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry, a must-stop for many Democrats seeking to compete in the leadoff caucuses. In Maryland, attended fundraiser for Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley.

New Hampshire: Yes, in November 2013, spoke at Democratic Party dinner, where he criticized a political climate with "a lot more excuses and ideology than cooperation or action" and promoted himself as Baltimore's former mayor and a governor who can get things done. Also spoke at a 2012 convention of New Hampshire Democrats. Appeared at May fundraiser in Washington area for New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.

South Carolina: Yes, April 2013 speech to Democratic activists.

Foreign travel: Yes, considerable. Israel this year for a second time. Also Denmark, Ireland, France, Brazil and El Salvador in 2013. Asia in 2011, Iraq in 2010.

Meet the money: Has many bases covered as one of the party's top fundraisers. Raised more than $1 million for Obama's re-election campaign and is finance chairman for Democratic Governors Association heading into 2014 midterm elections.

Networking: Yes. Campaigned in October 2013 for Democratic candidates in important presidential campaign states such as Florida, New Jersey, Ohio and Texas. Springtime speech to party activists in South Carolina, a key early primary state.

Hog the TV: Not much since 2012 campaign, when he appeared frequently. Sparred with Perry over job creation and health care on CNN's "Crossfire" in September 2013.

Do something: Has posted some victories as governor that appeal to liberals: Toughened gun laws, repealed the death penalty, saw voters approve gay marriage after he got behind legislation to approve it, set up a framework to develop offshore wind power. Supports raising Maryland's minimum wage in his last legislative session as governor in 2014.

Take a stand: Liberal checklist: increased spending on education, infrastructure, transportation; supports same-sex marriage, immigration reform, repealing death penalty, pushes environmental protections.

Baggage: A record of raising taxes that could be challenged by less liberal Democrats, never mind Republicans. Sales and corporate income taxes were approved in his first year as governor. Last year, people making more than $100,000 got hit and the state's "flush tax" on sewer bills doubled. This year he raised the gasoline tax. A shot across the bow from Maryland Republican Party chairwoman Diana Waterman: "Outrageously high taxes, a hostile regulatory environment, and thousands of people who are closing shop or leaving the state for greener pastures. This 'progress' he likes to boast about will be a tough sell to voters in Iowa and tax-wary New Hampshire." O'Malley's deflection: A vigorous defense of his record and the state's business climate. U.S. Chamber of Commerce rates Maryland No. 1 for entrepreneurship and innovation.

Shadow campaign: Set up PAC called O'Say Can You See and hired two people for fundraising and communications.

Social media: 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.

(Contributor: Brian Witte, Annapolis, Md.)

___

REPUBLICANS

BUSH:

Non-denial denial: "There's a time to make a decision. You shouldn't make it too early, you shouldn't make it too late. There's a time. There's a window. And this is not the time for me. This is the time to show a little self-restraint." — November 2013, CNN.

Book: Yes. Co-authored "Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution," which he promoted on all five Sunday morning TV talk shows March 10.

Iowa: Yes, in 2012, economic development meeting in Sioux City.

New Hampshire: No record of recent visits.

South Carolina: Yes, in April 2012. Spoke to Empower S.C. Education Reform meeting.

Foreign travel: Yes, a few times a year. Several visits to Israel, as governor (1999) and since then (private visit 2007). Also went there as Florida commerce secretary in 1980s.

Meet the money: Yes, and he's got longtime connections. Party in summer of 2013 for his immigration book at the home of Woody Johnson, owner of the New York Jets and a leading Republican bundler.

Networking: Yes, keynote dinner speech at Conservative Political Action Conference in March in Washington. 2013 Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting. Speeches and meetings on education policy. Told Kemp Foundation in October he considers the U.S. a "center-right country" and conservatives must "get outside our comfort zone" to govern effectively.

Hog the TV: Blanketed the Sunday talk shows one day in March 2013 to plug his book on immigration, a few appearances other times.

Do something: Staked a position on immigration to the right of Sen. Marco Rubio and some others. Strong job approval ratings as governor of Florida, a swing state. Revamped state educational system, cut taxes, managed state through several hurricanes.

Take a stand: Active on education reform in addition to immigration. On the latter, irked some Republicans by writing in his book that he did not support a pathway to citizenship for those living in the country illegally. Previously had expressed support for a pathway to citizenship, and later said he was open to the idea if it did not encourage illegal immigration.

Baggage: The Bush factor. Jeb is yet another Bush — a plus for many people but a huge negative for a big slice of the electorate that either didn't like Bush 41 and/or 43, or simply objects to the whole idea of a political dynasty. Even Barbara Bush, when asked about Jeb running, said in April: "We've had enough Bushes." Not much he can do to deflect this, other than show that he's his own man, and keep 41 and 43 at a distance.

Shadow campaign: He's a Bush — he's got connections. Statehouse lobbyist Sally Bradshaw, his chief of staff when he was governor, is his go-to political person.

Social media: Tweets and posts many Wall Street Journal stories, education thoughts and some Bush family doings. Tweeted in November 2013: "Why would our President close our Embassy to the Vatican? Hopefully, it is not retribution for Catholic organizations opposing Obamacare." Fact checkers pointed out the embassy in Rome is relocating, not closing.

(Contributor: Tom Beaumont, Des Moines, Iowa)

PERRY:

Non-denial denial: "Second chances are what America has always been about." ABC "This Week," Nov. 10. Says he'll decide in coming year.

Book: Not since 2010.

Iowa: Yes, returned in November for first time since last campaign, audience of 400 in Des Moines, and met governor and lieutenant-governor.

New Hampshire: No.

South Carolina: Yes, spoke to state GOP in December 2013. Also visited in August to raise money for Haley's re-election campaign. This is the state where he announced his presidential campaign, August 2011, and where he ended his campaign, in January 2012, two days before its primary.

Foreign travel: Yes, recently back from Israel, latest of several trips there. Photo op with Netanyahu, met Cabinet members, also stopped in London to see British officials and financial leaders.

Meet the money: Has proven a highly effective fundraiser as America's longest-sitting governor, 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 donors in California and New York.

Networking: Spoke at Conservative Political Action Conference in March as well as its regional meeting in St. Louis in September. Addressed conservative activists at a RedState Gathering in New Orleans in August, mistakenly saying he was in Florida. Spoke at National Federation of the Grand Order of Pachyderm Clubs, a Republican network, in San Antonio. Job-rob tour in various states helps make connections.

Hog the TV: Might be picking up pace. Only a few Sunday talk show appearances since the election. Debated Obama's health care law with O'Malley on "Crossfire" in September.

Do something: "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. Challenged a top Democrat on the abortion issue by asking her, what if her mother had aborted her?

Take a stand: A 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.

Baggage: "Oops!" Memories of his stumbling 2012 campaign, a quick progression from a front-runner to flameout. Deflection: He's got a more serious, mature look with dark-framed eyeglasses donned in August 2013 and more touches of gray for the man dubbed "Governor Good Hair." He followed up his "oops" brain freeze in a November 2011 debate, when he forgot the name of a federal department he wanted to close — Energy — by poking fun at himself: "I'm glad I had my boots on tonight because I sure stepped in it out there."

Shadow campaign: Created a PAC, Americans for Economic Freedom, in fall 2013 to raise his profile again, help him test the waters and broadcast ads promoting Republican leadership around the country. The group, using more than $200,000 left over from the PAC that raised millions for his 2012 campaign, was formed with Jeff Miller, a former chief financial officer for the California Republican Party, as CEO. Board members include Marc Rodriguez, chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and a fellow Texan; St. Louis beer baron August Busch III, economist Art Laffer and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The new PAC and private marketing fund Texas One paid for his October trip to Britain and Israel.

Social media: 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. Calls himself a presidential candidate, apparently a leftover from last campaign.

(Contributor: Will Weissert, Austin, Texas)

___

RUBIO:

Non-denial denial: "I told people I haven't even thought about that. That's a decision far in the future." April 14, Fox.

Book: Yes, now has a new book tentatively scheduled for release in late 2014, from same publisher of his 2012 memoir "An American Son."

Iowa: Yes, visited just days after 2012 election, but largely holding off on a new wave of trips to early voting states until 2014.

New Hampshire: Yes, multiple appearances before 2012 election. Has an invitation from New Hampshire GOP leaders to visit again. In May 2013, his Reclaim America PAC put up ads to defend Sen. Kelly Ayotte against attack ads from group financed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

South Carolina: Yes. In ahead of the 2016 pack, headlining state's Silver Elephant dinner in 2012. Stay tuned for more.

Foreign travel: Yes. Delivered foreign policy speech in London in early December, visited Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority in February. Also went to Israel after 2010 election to Senate, Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2011, Spain, Germany, Haiti and Colombia in 2012. Member of Senate Intelligence Committee

Meet the money: Yes, went to New York and California to meet potential donors. Also attended a fundraising strategy meeting at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters in Washington with well-connected lobbyists and Romney bundlers. Among the top fundraisers in early 2016 field in campaign and leadership political action committees.

Networking: Yes, conservative and party activists, focused lately on repairing tea party relationships strained over immigration. Campaigned for Republican in Virginia governor's race. Spent more than $200,000 in early December 2013 from PAC to help Arkansas Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton. Spoke at Conservative Political Action Conference, Faith and Freedom Coalition forum, more. In October won standing ovations at Values Voter conference when affirming his Christian faith and denouncing "rising tide of intolerance" toward social conservatives. Delivered keynote address at fundraiser for the Florida Family Policy Council, an evangelical group that led the successful 2008 effort to ban gay marriage in the state. And in late November, delivered foreign policy speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute before going to London.

Hog the TV: Yes. Blanketed all five Sunday news shows one day in April 2013, before he dropped the subject of immigration, and several other appearances since. Frequent guest on news networks. Was granted coveted chance to present televised Republican response to Obama's State of the Union speech in 2013, which he did in two languages and with jarring reach for drink of water.

Do something: Broker of Senate immigration overhaul, though he's gone quiet on the issue. Working with anti-abortion groups on Senate version of bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks. Early leader in call to link funding of federal health care law to government shutdown.

Take a stand: Immigration if he decides to get back to it, repealing the federal health care law, economy, abortion, tea party fiscal conservatism.

Baggage: A rift with his 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 Obama's health law in July speech to tea party in Florida. Dry-mouthed Rubio suffered embarrassing moment when he clumsily reached for water while delivering GOP response to Obama's State of the Union address. Deflection: Self-deprecating jokes about it. Thin resume, although Obama helped deflect this for him with joke at White House Correspondents Dinner. Obama, who served less than four years of his six-year Senate term before winning 2008 election, cracked about Rubio: "I mean, the guy has not even finished a single term in the Senate and he thinks he's ready to be president." Accused of embellishing timeline of parents' departure from Cuba for political gain.

Shadow campaign: Reclaim America PAC led by former deputy chief of staff, Terry Sullivan, veteran of South Carolina politics. The PAC has already spent six figures to defend Ayotte on gun control and expects to be active behind GOP candidates across country in 2014 midterms. Expects to begin more aggressive travel to early voting states in 2014.

Social media: 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.

(Contributor: Steve Peoples, Boston)

___

RYAN:

Non-denial denial: "Once I'm through with this term, then I'm going to give a hard look at it." — To The Des Moines Register, November 2013. "If I'm going to do a job as chairman of the Budget Committee, as a leader of my party, I cannot let my mind be clouded with personal ambition. I'm going to make those decisions later." — Wall Street Journal, November.

Book: Yes, recently announced and coming in 2014.

Iowa: Yes, keynote speaker at governor's annual birthday fundraiser in November 2013, in first visit since 2012 campaign. "Maybe we should come back and do this more often," he teased. Wife's family is from Iowa and their Janesville, Wis., home is only a few hours away.

New Hampshire: Yes, in 2012. Because of government shutdown, canceled an October 2013 visit to help a GOP House candidate.

South Carolina: Yes, during 2012 campaign.

Foreign travel: Yes. Middle East travel during congressional career, visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meet the money: Yes, attended Romney's Utah retreat with major GOP donors, took some guests skeet shooting. Place on 2012 ticket gives him a leg up on money matters.

Networking: Yes, prime networker as 2012 vice presidential candidate. 2013 Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting. Helping fellow House Republicans raise money.

Hog the TV: A half-dozen Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election. Occasional guest on network news.

Do something: Republican broker of the bipartisan budget deal in December that averted a potential government shutdown in early 2014 and scaled back across-the-board spending cuts. The deal draws a contrast between Ryan and potential rivals who oppose it. A budget-hawk record to be judged on. May be emerging as influential moderate on immigration.

Take a stand: Cutting spending, taking on entitlements. Pushing for immigration overhaul, but largely behind the scenes. Did speak out in a Chicago appearance in April for immigration changes.

Baggage: On one hand, budget pain. Critics are sure to dust off ads from 2012 presidential campaign blasting the sharp cuts that Ryan advocated for Medicare and other programs. But this is catnip to GOP conservatives. On the other hand, his December 2013 bipartisan budget deal risks trouble with the tea party. Still carries stigma of loss from his place on 2012 ticket with Romney. Immigration position rankles some conservatives.

Shadow campaign: His Prosperity Action PAC.

Social media: Aggressive, with large following. King of Facebook among potential rivals in both parties. 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:

Non-denial denial: "A year from now, I'll have to make that decision." — Nov. 18, 2013. Is he open to running? "Sure."

Book: Yes, coming in 2014, "Blue Collar Conservatives."

Iowa: Yes. August 2013 speech to conservative Christians in state where he won the 2012 caucuses. Illness kept him away from an April event by Faith and Freedom Coalition. Screened his new Christmas movie in Iowa in November.

New Hampshire: No recent record of visits. Weak state for him in 2012.

South Carolina: Yes. Campaigned in April 2013 for Mark Sanford's opponent, Curtis Bostic, in a GOP House runoff race.

Foreign travel: Scant foreign travel while in the Senate drew notice in 2012 GOP campaign.

Meet the money: 2012 shoestring campaign was largely fueled by a super PAC to which Republican donor Foster Friess gave more than $2 million. Santorum bunked at supporters' homes on occasion.

Networking: Previewed "The Christmas Candle," a film made by his Christian-themed movie company, for conservative religious leaders at Values Voter conference in Washington, and screens it for other like-minded groups.

Hog the TV: Yes, largely in pursuit of plugging his Christmas movie. "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.

Do something: Making Christian-themed, family-friendly movies at the moment; has record from Senate days.

Take a stand: Lately, against "dangerous" U.N. Disabilities Treaty. Social conservative activism goes way back. Focus on blue-collar economic opportunity.

Baggage: Overshadowed by newer conservative figures, conceivably out-popes the pope on some social issues. 2012 positions included opposition to abortion even in cases of rape or incest and support for right of states to ban contraception and gay marriage. 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.

Shadow campaign: Keeps in touch with chief supporters of his winning 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, giving him a leg up on a campaign organization in the state.

Social media: Active on Twitter and Facebook, where he relentlessly plugs his new Christmas movie, gives away tickets and goes after the health law.

___

WALKER:

Non-denial denial: "Right now, my calling is to be the governor.... I don't rule anything out." — ABC "This Week," Nov. 17. Has declined to commit to serving a full term if he wins re-election as governor in 2014. "There's a part of me that would just like to stay focused on helping the state move forward. So we'll see what the future holds. But for now, I'm focused on being governor." — Dec. 1, CBS' "Face the Nation."

Book: Yes, hot off the press. "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge," was out in fall 2013.

Iowa: Yes. In May, spoke to 600 at GOP fundraiser outside Des Moines. Talked about his seven years as a young child living in Plainfield, a tiny town in northeast Iowa. "Yeah, I'm going to Iowa, but I get invited to other states that have nothing to do with presidential politics," to Wisconsin State Journal.

New Hampshire: Yes, headlined a GOP state convention in October 2013, keynote at state party convention in September 2012.

South Carolina: Yes, attended August fundraiser for Haley, who came to Wisconsin to campaign for him in 2012 recall vote.

Foreign travel: Yes. China in April, on a trade mission for state. Hasn't been to Israel.

Meet the money: Yes. Headlined 2013 fundraisers in New York and Connecticut.

Networking: Campaigned for GOP in Virginia governor's race. Spoke to Michigan Republican Leadership Conference on Mackinac Island in September 2013. Belle of the ball as host of the National Governors Association summer meeting in Milwaukee. Conservative Political Action Conference, Aspen Institute. Aides said he hoped to campaign for Christie but couldn't schedule it.

Hog the TV: Half dozen Sunday news show appearances since 2012 election. "Crossfire" debate with Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Also, Piers Morgan, Lou Dobbs, more.

Do something: Curbs on public service unions became a national flashpoint, but he won the effort — and the recall election that followed. Opponents have challenged the law in court, and argued against a key provision before the state Supreme Court in November. A decision is pending.

Take a stand: Fiscal stewardship, from a GOP point of view. Tough guy against the unions and liberal defenders of the status quo. Says presidential and vice presidential candidates should both be current or former governors because GOP in Congress is the party of no.

Baggage: Some things that give him huge appeal with GOP conservatives — taking on unions, most notably — would whip up Democratic critics in general election. Wisconsin near bottom in job creation despite his main campaign pledge in 2010 to create 250,000 private sector jobs in his term.

Shadow campaign: : Keeps close counsel with in-state group led by Keith Gilkes; also stays in touch with top national GOP governor strategists such as Phil Musser and Nick Ayers.

Social media: Posts vigorously on Facebook and on his Twitter accounts. "Wow is it cold out." Many exclamation points. "Glad USDA is keeping cranberries on school menus. I drink several bottles of cranberry juice each day!" Promotes policy achievements and his TV appearances, reflects on sports, pokes Obama.

(Contributor: Tom Beaumont, Des Moines, Iowa)

___

Associated Press writer Nancy Benac also contributed to this report.

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