WASHINGTON — The 2016 presidential election only seems far away if you're not planning to run in it. For those who are thinking about seeking their party's presidential nomination, there's so very much to do, starting yesterday.
This is a time to get to know donors, to get the public to know you on TV and social media, to visit big primary states, network with the activists and ideologues, produce a vanity book, polish a record, deal with personal baggage, take a stand, develop a world view and scout for advisers and political organizations that can power up a campaign team. All while sounding coy about running. And in some cases, not even being sure you will.
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, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
NON-DENIAL DENIAL: Cagey words that cloak presidential ambitions, and none too convincingly.
Biden: "I can die a happy man never having been president of the United States of America. But it doesn't mean I won't run."
Clinton: "I have absolutely no plans to run. ... I don't know everything I'll be doing. I'll be working on behalf of women and girls, and hopefully be writing and speaking. Those are the things that I am planning to do right now. ... I'm looking forward to this next chapter in my life, whatever it is."
Cuomo: "To the extent that I'm focusing on politics, it's my (governor's) race next year."
O'Malley: "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."
Bush: "My thinking is not to think about it for a year."
Christie: "I'm nowhere near making that decision yet, at all. I mean, I think anybody who tries to plan in politics that far in advance is crazy. ... I love being governor and I want to stay as governor."
Jindal: "The reality is anybody who's thinking about 2016 needs to have their head examined. It's way too early."
Paul: "We're thinking about growing the party. What comes after that, we'll see."
Rubio: "I told people I haven't even thought about that. That's a decision far in the future."
Ryan: "I will give it serious consideration, but I'm going to do that later on."
Walker: "That's not anything I've really spent a whole lot of time thinking about."
WRITE A BOOK: The perfect stage-setter, just ask Barack Obama ("Dreams from My Father," 2004; "The Audacity of Hope," 2006.)
Biden: Not since "Promises to Keep" from `07.
Cuomo: Yes, coming in 2014.
Clinton: Yes, coming in 2014.
Bush: Yes, on immigration.
Jindal: Yes, but in 2010.
Paul: "Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds," in 2012; "The Tea Party Goes to Washington," 2011.
Rubio: Yes, "An American Son: A Memoir," 2012.
Ryan: Among various authors of "The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal," with the snoozy sub-sub-title: "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution."
Walker: Yes, "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge," is coming in the fall with former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen as ghost-writer.
GO TO IOWA: Its caucuses are the opening act of the nomination contest.
Biden: Yes, in 2012 campaign.
O'Malley: Yes, headlined Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry in the fall.
Bush: Yes, in 2012.
Christie: Yes, in 2012.
Jindal: Yes, summer visit, then flew with Iowa governor to governors association meeting in Milwaukee. In Iowa seven times in 2012.
Paul: Yes, Lincoln Day Dinner in May, meeting with pastors in July.
Rubio: Yes, in 2012 just days after the election.
Ryan: Yes, multiple times as 2012 veep candidate. Keynote speaker at governor's annual birthday fundraiser coming in November.
Walker: Yes, May fund-raiser.
GO TO NEW HAMPSHIRE: Nation's first primary comes after Iowa and is just as important.
Biden: Yes, in 2012 campaign, and 2013 fundraiser planned in Maine for New Hampshire governor.
O'Malley: Yes, once in 2012.
Christie: Yes, three times in 2012.
Jindal: Yes, headlined state GOP fundraiser in May, visited twice in 2012.
Paul: Yes, headlined state GOP fundraiser in May.
Rubio: Yes, multiple times in 2012.
Ryan: Yes, multiple times as veep candidate in 2012.
Walker: Yes, keynote speaker at 2012 state GOP convention.
GO ABROAD: Helps to give neophytes foreign policy cred, and Israel is a touchstone for U.S. politicians.
Biden: Yes, tons.
Clinton: Yes, nearly 1 million miles as secretary of state. Canadian speech since leaving State Department.
Cuomo: Yes, but not much lately. Israel twice in 2002.
O'Malley: Yes. Israel this year for a second time. Also Denmark, Ireland, France in 2013. Asia in 2011, Iraq in 2010.
Bush: Yes, several overseas trips a year. Three times to Israel since 1980s.
Christie: Yes, Israel and Jordan in 2012.
Jindal: No, not as governor.
Paul: Yes, Israel and Jordan in January.
Rubio: Yes, Israel and Jordan in February, also Israel after 2010 Senate election.
Ryan: Yes, Middle East during congressional career; visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Walker: Yes, China in April. Not been to Israel.
DON'T FORGET SOUTH CAROLINA: First Southern primary and big in its own right.
Biden: Yes, headlined annual fundraising dinner in May for state party, appeared at Rep. James Clyburn's annual fish-fry, Easter weekend vacation on Kiawah Island.
O'Malley: Yes, April speech to party activists.
Bush: Yes, 2012 speech.
Christie: Yes, helped Mitt Romney raise money in 2012.
Jindal: Yes, attending August fund-raiser for governor.
Paul: Yes, headlined two fundraisers.
Rubio: Yes, headlined 2012 Silver Elephant dinner.
Ryan: Yes, in 2012 campaign.
Walker: Yes, attending August fund-raiser for governor.
MEET THE MONEY: To know donors now is to tap them later.
Biden: Yes, schmoozes party contributors at private receptions.
Clinton: No, but supporters are raising big money to encourage her to run.
Cuomo: Flush coffers for 2014 governor's race.
O'Malley: Yes, as finance chairman for Democratic Governors Association in 2014 mid-term campaign.
Bush: Yes, party this summer for his book at home of Woody Johnson, owner of New York Jets and leading Republican bundler.
Christie: Yes, aggressive 2013 national fundraising tour for his governor's race, attended Romney's Utah retreat with major party donors in June.
Jindal: Yes, met leading GOP donors in New York City.
Paul: Yes, attended Romney's Utah retreat with major party donors, met GOP donors in New York City.
Rubio: Yes, met major GOP donors in New York City, attended Washington meeting with Romney bundlers.
Ryan: Yes, attended Romney's Utah retreat with major party donors, has 2012 campaign money connections.
Walker: Yes, 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: Yes, vigorously with Dems and activists.
Clinton: Limited, getting started with speeches.
Cuomo: Very little on the radar. Skipped national governors meeting in August.
O'Malley: Yes, vigorously, and big splash at national governors meeting.
Bush: Yes, with conservative activists, education leaders.
Christie: Yes, keynote speaker at 2012 GOP convention; will be 2014 chairman of GOP governors association.
Jindal: Yes, headlined winter meeting of Republican National Committee; lots of conservative outreach.
Paul: Yes, plenty. Conservative activists, tech leaders, Reagan Presidential Library speech.
Rubio: Yes, conservative and party activists.
Ryan: Yes, prime networker as 2012 veep candidate. Helping fellow House members raise money.
Walker: Belle of the ball as host of the National Governors Association meeting in August.
HOG THE TV: Achieving national recognition by sermonizing on the Sunday talk shows, or going for soft questions and easy laughs on late-night TV.
Biden: No, not lately.
Clinton: No. But stay tuned for "Hillary" miniseries.
O'Malley: Frequently on Sunday talk shows in 2012 campaign, once since.
Bush: Six Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election, including all five shows on March 10 to plug book on immigration.
Christie: Yes, late-night TV circuit, playing for laughs.
Jindal: Two Sunday talk shows since 2012 election.
Paul: Eight Sunday talk shows since election, leads the chattering pack.
Rubio: Six Sunday talk shows since election, including all five on April 13.
Ryan: Five Sunday talks shows since election.
Walker: Four Sunday talk shows since election.
ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING: For voters who want to support doers, not just talkers.
Biden: Point man on gun control, which failed. Lots on foreign policy. Negotiated fiscal cliff deal.
Clinton: Record as secretary of state, senator and first lady.
Cuomo: Pushed New York's legalization of gay marriage, first gun-control law after Newtown, Conn., school massacre. 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.
Bush: As Florida governor, revamped state educational system, cut taxes, managed state through hurricanes.
Christie: Led state's response to Superstorm Sandy. Agreed to expand state's Medicaid program under Obamacare while some other Republican governors have refused. Vetoed bill that would have legalized gay marriage, signed law increasing pension and health costs for public workers.
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.
Rubio: 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.
Ryan: Budget-hawk record to be judged on. Emerging as influential moderate on immigration.
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. Recent speeches have 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. Yet took on labor unions, opposes gay marriage and opposes abortion rights except in case of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.
Jindal: A record of privatization to show he means government should be downsized, 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."
Rubio: Economy, abortion, tea party fiscal conservatism; immigration liberalization if he decides to get back to it.
Ryan: Cutting spending, taking on entitlements.
Walker: Fiscal stewardship, from a GOP point of view. Tough guy against the unions and liberal defenders of the status quo.
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."
Clinton: Benghazi, 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.
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: A 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.?
Christie: The fat factor and man dates with President Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.
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.
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 vowing to take apart Obamacare. 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: Make 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.
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 near bottom in job creation.
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: Limited, given his current position, but maintains close contact with political advisers past and present.
Clinton: Ready for Hillary super PAC set up by supporters is laying groundwork.
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 – he's got connections. Statehouse lobbyist Sally Bradshaw, chief of staff when he was governor, is his go-to political person.
Christie: Building broad coalition of donors through his national fundraising tour this spring. There were also "draft Christie" movements in Iowa and South Carolina in 2011, where activists continue to support him. Hired senior Romney media mind Russ Schriefer in late spring.
Jindal: His media consulting shop is OnMessage, based in Alexandria, Va., where campaign strategist Curt Anderson has had long relationship with him. Timmy Teepell, former campaign chief of staff for Jindal, has been made partner.
Paul: Has leadership PAC called Rand PAC, maintains ties to father's political network in early primary states.
Rubio: 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.
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 Twitter account.
Clinton: Legions of followers, few tweets, since starting with Twitter in June. Not active on Facebook.
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 and tin whistle. On Facebook, his PAC-generated page is more active than official governor's account.
Bush: Tweets many Wall Street Journal stories. On Facebook, promotes immigration book, education reform.
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.
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.
Rubio: Aggressive. King of Twitter in GOP field, second only to Clinton in followers. 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.
Walker: Posts every little thing on Facebook. "Glad USDA is keeping cranberries on school menus. I drink several bottles of cranberry juice each day!" Also active on Twitter, where he spread word about beer doughnuts at state fair.
Associated Press writers Ken Thomas, Josh Lederman and Nancy Benac in Washington; Brian Witte in Annapolis, Md.; Bill Barrow in Atlanta; Tom Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa; and Steve Peoples in Boston contributed to this report.