This is the season of cultivation for people who might run for president in 2016.
It's 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, deflect personal baggage, take a stand, develop a world view and scout for advisers and political organizations that can power up a campaign team.
All this, for the season of harvest to come. And all while sounding coy about running.
Here's a look at the hoops that people interested in the presidency must generally jump through to prepare for a campaign — whether they end up running or not — and who's doing what.
The main players: For the Democrats, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Gov. Mario 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.
Related: Republicans vs. Democrats, 2016 edition: Who has the stronger bench?
The non-denial denial: "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." GQ interview, July.
Book: Not lately. Could be time for a sequel to "Promises to Keep" from '07.
Iowa: Yes, in 2012 campaign. 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: Yes, in 2012 campaign, and 2013 summer fundraiser planned in Maine for New Hampshire governor.
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 Dem 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, and Colombia in second term.
Meet the money: Regularly schmoozes Dem contributors at private receptions.
Networking: And how. Cozied up to key 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. Also, keynote speech at Michigan Democratic Party dinner. Making calls for House Democrats' campaign organization, assisting in recruitment of candidates to run next year. Speech to South Carolina Dems. Raising money for Democrats. Campaigned for 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. 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.
Shadow campaign: Maintains close contact with his political advisers past and present. Creating a shadow campaign would be difficult early in Obama's second term as the public perception could hasten Obama's lame duck status.
Social media: Not active on Facebook, occasional contributor to his office's Twitter account. Narrates "Being Biden" photo series showing him behind the scenes. Episodes include a meeting with actress Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, who plays VP on the HBO show "Veep."
(Contributor: Josh Lederman)
Non-denial denial: "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." CNN, January. Also: "TBD." Part of her self-description on Twitter after joining in June.
Book: Yes — again. Previously published author has a new book expected in 2014.
Iowa: No. (Third-place shocker in 2008 caucuses won by Barack 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 and nearly three months in the air, covering nearly 1 million miles. Recent speech in Canada.
Meet the money: No, but can tap deep well of Dem and activist money. Supporters launched a super PAC, Ready for Hillary, in January to support another presidential run and are raising money at rapid clip.
Networking: After a respite, kicking it into gear on the speech circuit: several paid speeches since April to trade groups, conferences about the lives of women around the globe. Much more coming. In September, will be presented with Liberty Medal by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at Philadelphia ceremony sponsored by National Constitution Center, chaired by the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate. In October: speeches to college students at three upstate New York universities, bringing her back to communities where she campaigned and served in the Senate.
Hog the TV: No. But stay tuned for "Hillary," an NBC miniseries hatched with the expectation she'll run. Diane Lane will play her.
Do something: For now, a record to be judged on as secretary of state, senator and first lady.
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.
Baggage: Age, Benghazi, 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, Libya. 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: Twitter: Huge throng of followers, over 600,000, but few tweets. Her tweeted congrats and advice to British royal family for the new baby: "It Takes a (Royal) Village!" Not active on Facebook.
(Contributor: Ken Thomas)
Non-denial denial: "To the extent that I'm focusing on politics, it's my (governor's) race next year."
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.
Iowa: No. Has stayed close to home.
New Hampshire: No.
South Carolina: No.
Foreign travel: Yes, but not much lately. Visited Israel twice in 2002 when running for Democratic nomination for governor.
Meet the money: Facing little opposition in his re-election campaign in 2014, Cuomo had socked away a whopping $27.8 million in his campaign account through July.
Networking: Sparingly. Rarely leaves New York state. Did not appear at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte last year, choosing instead to hold a side event for New York delegates at a Charlotte hotel.
Hog the TV: No.
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 stand: Environmentalists and the energy industry are closely watching his pending decision whether to allow fracking in some 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. New York ranked 37th among all states for gross domestic product for last three years. 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: Ken Thomas)
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.
Iowa: Yes, in 2012. Last fall, 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 June fundraiser for Iowa Senate candidate Bruce Braley.
New Hampshire: No. Appeared at May fundraiser in Washington area for New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen.
South Carolina: Yes, April speech to Democratic activists.
Foreign travel: Yes, considerable. Israel this year for a second time. Also Denmark, Ireland, France 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 mid-term elections.
Networking: Yes. Springtime speech to party activists in South Carolina, another key early primary state. Work for 2014 candidates will take him to important presidential campaign states late this summer and fall, among them Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and New Jersey.
Hog the TV: One Sunday talk-show appearance since 2012 election. Frequent Sunday sermonizing on those shows on behalf of Obama during 2012 campaign.
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.
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 went up 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 and tin whistle. On Facebook, his PAC-generated page is more active than official governor's account.
(Contributor: Brian Witte, Annapolis)
Non-denial denial: "I'm not thinking about it." ''I'm not saying yes. I'm just not saying no." March 10 talk shows. "My thinking is not to think about it for a year," May 30.
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 this summer 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.
Hog the TV: 6 Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election, including all five shows on March 10 to plug his book on immigration.
Do something: Staked a position on immigration to the right of Sen. Marco Rubio and some others. Strong job approval ratings as governor of swing-state Florida. Revamped state educational system, cut taxes, managed state through several hurricanes.
Take a stand: Active on education reform in addition to immigration. On the later, 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 many Wall Street Journal stories. On Facebook, promotes immigration book, education reform.
(Contributor: Tom Beaumont, Des Moines, Iowa)
Non-denial denial: "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." Feb. 4, "Late Show with David Letterman."
Iowa: Yes, in 2012. New Jersey governor also visited in 2011 and 2012 to help Iowa Rep. Steve King raise money.
New Hampshire: Yes, three times in the 2012 campaign, endorsing Mitt Romney in a visit to the state, campaigning for him there in January 2012 and returning in September for Ovide Lamontagne, who was running for governor. Schmoozed with New Hampshire delegates at GOP convention.
South Carolina: Yes, visited in 2012 to help Romney raise money.
Foreign travel: Yes. First official trip overseas was in July 2012, to Israel, then Jordan. Visited Western Wall, met Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who told him Israel and New Jersey are similar in size and population but New Jersey probably has "better neighbors."
Meet the money: Yes, went on an aggressive national fundraising tour in early 2013, courting GOP donors in New York City, the Washington area, Boston and Miami. Also raised money this year in Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and California, where Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted an event at his Palo Alto home. Although he's raising money for his governor's race, these connections put him in a good place to finance a presidential campaign. Attended Romney's retreat in Utah in June, joining Paul and Ryan in hanging out with major GOP donors.
Networking: Yes, but not the usual conservative activist network. Broad outreach as keynote speaker at 2012 Republican National Convention and vice chairman of Republican Governors Association, a group he'll chair in 2014. At Aspen Institute in July, started spat with Paul from afar, criticizing libertarians in the party. Spoke to Conservative Political Action Conference in 2012 but not invited this year. Invited to speak to Ralph Reed's Faith and Freedom conference, but declined and instead appeared with Bill Clinton in Chicago to talk about disaster relief.
Hog the TV: Yes but not the usual sober circuit. Late-night guest with David Letterman, Jon Stewart and Jimmy Fallon, occasional news-show guest. Brief appearance on "Saturday Night Live" and will play himself on an episode of the new sitcom "The Michael J. Fox Show" this fall.
Do something: Led state's response to Superstorm Sandy. Agreed to expand state's Medicaid program under Obamacare while some other Republican governors have refused to do so. Vetoed a bill that would have legalized gay marriage, signed law increasing pension and health costs for public workers.
Take a stand: Bridges partisan divide. Christie showed in disaster response that pragmatism trumped party labels. That could be a strength in a presidential election, although a weakness in striving for his party's nomination, because accommodation is not what core constituencies of either party want to see. But he's pleased some conservatives by taking on labor unions, opposing gay marriage and opposing abortion rights except in case of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman.
Baggage: Fat factor. Man dates with Obama, Bill Clinton. Prickly relations with conservatives. Began to deflect weight problem by having a band surgically placed around stomach to restrict food intake. His praise of Obama during storm response and while Romney was trying to win the 2012 campaign turned some Republicans apoplectic. His deflection could be summed up by the title of Romney's book: "No Apology." Has a lot of making up to do with the right.
Shadow campaign: 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.
Social media: 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.
(Contributor: Steve Peoples, Boston)
Non-denial denial: "The reality is anybody who's thinking about 2016 needs to have their head examined. It's way too early." May 10 in New Hampshire.
Book: Yes. But Louisiana governor's hardcover "Leadership and Crisis" from 2010 is dated (and selling for under $3 on Amazon). No set plans for another book, inner circle says. But his moves toward managed-care privatization in health care and school vouchers in education could anchor another vanity-policy tome.
Iowa: Yes, summer visit, then flew with Iowa governor to governors association meeting in Milwaukee. Visited Iowa seven times in 2012.
New Hampshire: Yes, headlined state GOP fundraiser in May, visited twice in 2012.
South Carolina: Yes, attending summer fund-raiser for Gov. Nikki Haley.
Foreign travel: No overseas trips as governor. A few trips while in Congress from 2004-2008.
Meet the money: Yes, met leading GOP donors in New York City.
Networking: Headlined winter meeting of Republican National Committee in Charlotte, N.C., where he suggested Republicans "stop being the stupid party." Has close ties with social conservatives. Spoke at 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference and opened Virginia Republican convention in May. Aspen Institute and GOP governors' meeting in the summer. Has spoken at least twice in recent years at Republican leadership conferences in New Orleans.
Hog the TV: No, two Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election.
Do something: Set an example for effective disaster response in several hurricanes and the Gulf oil spill (but unlike Christie, trashed the Obama administration). Privatized a major chunk of Louisiana's Medicaid program. Dramatically downsized public hospital system. Signed statewide voucher program that covers private school tuition for certain students. Signed abortion restrictions, a science education law that some academics say amounts to back-door promotion of creationism and fought liberalization of state's adoption law, making it impossible for gay couples to adopt jointly.
Take a stand: Stands for "fundamental shifting (of) the size and focus of government" and has record on privatization to show he means it. Happy to carry social conservative banner while demonstrating curious mind on policy and inventive approach to issues, at the risk of making him look seriously wonky.
Baggage: Pesky state governance issues: Had to pull back ambitious plan to replace Louisiana's corporate and personal income taxes with higher sales taxes. THAT speech: No doubt critics will be happy to dredge up video of disastrous GOP response to Obama's first presidential address to Congress in 2009, a prime showcase that went awry when Jindal delivered a dud. Deflection: The first Indian-American governor in the United States helped banish that memory with funny, well-delivered speech to media elite at 2013 Gridiron dinner, which included this self-deprecating reference to his own prospects for a presidential run: "What chance does a skinny guy with a dark complexion have of being elected president?" Biggest accomplishments have some holes critics can pounce on: a troublesome audit at the school that got the most state money under voucher program. Jindal administration's award of a $200 million Medicaid contract is under investigation by state and federal grand juries.
Shadow campaign: His media consulting shop is OnMessage, based in Alexandria, Va., where campaign strategist Curt Anderson has had a long relationship with him. Timmy Teepell, a former campaign chief of staff for Jindal, has been made a partner.
Social media: 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.
(Contributor: Bill Barrow, Atlanta)
Non-denial denial: "We're thinking about growing the party. What comes after that, we'll see." June 17, Fox.
Book: Yes. But Kentucky senator may need something less flame-throwing than 2012's "Government Bullies: How Everyday Americans Are Being Harassed, Abused, and Imprisoned by the Feds," and something less dated and more broadly pitched than 2011's "The Tea Party Goes to Washington."
Iowa: Yes, Lincoln Day Dinner in May, meeting with pastors in July.
New Hampshire: Yes, headlined state GOP fundraiser in May, met activists, went on radio. Plans Washington fundraiser for New Hampshire Republicans.
South Carolina: Yes, headlined fundraisers in Greenville and Columbia.
Foreign travel: Yes. Visited Israel, Jordan in January, met Palestinian Authority as well as Israeli leaders, said in Israeli speech U.S. should trim aid to Israel gradually. Member of Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Meet the money: Yes, attended Romney's Utah retreat in June with big GOP donors, golfed with some there. Met potential donors in New York City. Raised money for Nevada GOP at Las Vegas event in July.
Networking: Yes, spoke to Conservative Political Action Committee, Faith and Freedom Coalition forum, FreedomFest libertarian event in Las Vegas and at Reagan Presidential Library on California trip that also took him to Silicon Valley tech companies.
Hog the TV: Yes, eight Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election, making him leader of the chattering pack. Also frequent guest on news networks, especially Fox.
Do something: One-man, nearly 13-hour Senate filibuster to protest drone policy made country take notice, and impressed civil-liberties advocates outside his tea party constituency.
Take a stand: Tea party plus. Fiscal conservative, criticizes surveillance state, praised Supreme Court gay marriage ruling as one that avoids "culture war," aggressive in seeking repeal of Obamacare.
Baggage: Dear old dad: Must move beyond fringe reputation that kept father's presidential runs from going far. Deflection: Full-speed ahead. Aggressively pressing libertarian principles, especially on anti-terrorism. Past positions: Expressed misgivings about how Civil Rights Act bans racial discrimination by private businesses. Deflection: Reaching out directly to black voters and insisting the party needs to broaden appeal to minorities. He needs to broaden his appeal, too, beyond his tea party roots.
Shadow campaign: Has a leadership PAC called Rand PAC, has maintained ties to father's political network in early primary states.
Social media: 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. Countered Christie's couched criticism of his opposition to warrantless wiretapping with a tweet declaring that Christie "worries about the dangers of freedom. I worry about the danger of losing that freedom."
(Contributor: Ken Thomas)
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. "An American Son: A Memoir." June 2012.
Iowa: Yes, visited just days after 2012 election.
New Hampshire: Yes, multiple appearances before 2012 election. Called New Hampshire GOP leaders in June and was invited to visit later this year. In May, 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 last year.
Foreign travel: Yes. Visited Israel, Jordan, Palestinian Authority in February. Also went to Israel after 2010 election to Senate. Member of Senate Intelligence Committee
Meet the money: Yes, went to New York 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.
Networking: Yes, Conservative Political Action Conference, Faith and Freedom Coalition forum, among others.
Hog the TV: Yes. Six Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election, including all five shows on April 13. 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.
Take a stand: Immigration if he decides to get back to it, 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 vowing to take apart Obamacare 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. He covers a few important primary bases here while building a national organization.
Social media: 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.
(Contributor: Steve Peoples, Boston)
Non-denial denial: "I'm going to make my mind up later. ... I will give it serious consideration, but I'm going to do that later on." To CNN in March.
Book: No. Wisconsin congressman and 2012 vice presidential candidate is the only named contributor among various authors of "The Path to Prosperity: A Blueprint for American Renewal," which has as its snoozy sub-sub-title: "Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Resolution." That won't do.
Iowa: Yes, a dozen times as vice presidential candidate in 2012, and making his first post-election trip this fall as keynote speaker at Iowa governor's annual birthday fundraiser in November. Wife's family is from Iowa and their Janesville, Wis., home is only a few hours away.
New Hampshire: Yes, multiple times as veep candidate in 2012.
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 veep candidate. 2013 Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting. Helping fellow House Republicans raise money.
Hog the TV: Five Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election. Occasional guest on network news.
Do something: 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: Budget pain. Critics are sure to dust off ads from 2012 presidential campaign blasting the sharp cuts to Medicare and other programs that Ryan advocated. But this is catnip to GOP conservatives. 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. 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.
Non-denial denial: "Someday, maybe once we get past all this, we'll take a look at it. ...That's not anything I've really spent a whole lot of time thinking about." The Washington Post, March 16. "All this" referred to bringing down Wisconsin's unemployment rate and winning re-election as governor next year, although he pointedly would not commit to serving a full term if he does.
Book: Yes. "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge," is being published in the fall. Former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen is ghost writing.
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." Non sequitur to Wisconsin State Journal.
New Hampshire: Yes, keynote at September 2012 state Republican convention.
South Carolina: Yes, attending late August fundraiser for Gov. Nikki 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: Belle of the ball as host of the National Governors Association summer meeting in Milwaukee. Conservative Political Action Conference, Aspen Institute.
Hog the TV: four Sunday talk show appearances since 2012 election.
Do something: Curbs on public service unions became a national flashpoint, but he won the effort — and the recall election that followed.
Take a stand: Fiscal stewardship from a GOP point of view. Tough guy against unions and liberal defenders of the status quo.
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: Consults with top GOP governor strategists such as Phil Musser and Nick Ayers.
Social media: Posts every little thing on Facebook. "Glad USDA is keeping cranberries on school menus. I drink several bottles of cranberry juice each day!" Followed by: "Celebrated feds decision on cranberries by having a big glass of cranberry juice with my ham & cheese sandwiches for lunch." And: "Another beautiful day in Wisconsin!" And: "Glad I waited until sun was much lower before I mowed the grass. It is hot today." Many exclamation points. On Twitter, spread word about beer doughnuts at state fair, promotes policy, pokes Obama.
(Contributor: Tom Beaumont, Des Moines, Iowa)