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:
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)
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)
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.)
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.)
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)