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2016 GOP campaign checklist: Who's doing what

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 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.

BUSH:

  • 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)

CHRISTIE:

  • 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."
  • Book: No.
  • 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)

JINDAL:

  • 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. In Iowa seven times in 2012.
  • New Hampshire: Yes, headlined state GOP fundraiser in May, two visits 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; the 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)

PAUL:

  • 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)

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. "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)

RYAN:

  • 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.

WALKER:

  • 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_

Associated Press writer Nancy Benac also contributed to this story.

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