WASHINGTON – 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. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.
- 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 idea 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Iowa: Yes, once 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: Yes, in 2012. 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.