2016 presidential checklist: What needs to be done?

Top row: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. Bottom row: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The 2016 presidential election is still a few years off, but candidates are already moving pieces on the board in preparation to run.

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.

This is a time to get to know donors, to get the public to know you on TV and social media, to network with the activists and ideologues, 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.

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THE MAIN PLAYERS

Democrats: Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley.

Republicans: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

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NON-DENIAL DENIAL

Cagey words that cloak presidential ambitions, and none too convincingly.

Democrats

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."

Republicans

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."

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."

Related: O'Malley, lawmakers agree on tax hikes for special session

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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.

Democrats

Biden: No, not lately.

Clinton: No. But stay tuned for "Hillary" miniseries.

Cuomo: No.

O'Malley: Frequently on Sunday talk shows in 2012 campaign, once since.

Republicans

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.

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.

Related: GOP set to boycott debates if Clinton TV specials air

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ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING

For voters who want to support doers, not just talkers.

Democrats

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.

Republicans

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.

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.

Related: NY Gov. Cuomo calls for tougher bans on guns and ammo

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TAKE A NATIONAL STAND

Effective state governance is nice but leaders must build national stature on issues of the day.

Democrats

Biden: Guns, violence against women, gay rights, veterans.

Clinton: 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.

Republicans

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.

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.

Related: Jeb Bush: America will decline without immigrants 

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BAGGAGE TO CHECK

It's never too early to deal with skeletons in the closet; rivals will be rattling them soon enough.

Democrats

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.

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.

Paul: Bridge-burning in Congress endears him to Tea Party, could bite him otherwise.

Rubio: Rift with Tea Party constituency on immigration, "a real trial for me." He needs to go aggressive on a matter of common ground, which he did in vowing to take apart Obamacare. And stop talking about immigration.

Ryan: Budget axe cuts both ways — catnip to conservatives but people want their Medicare. Carries stigma of 2012 election loss as running mate.

Related: Rubio pushes Obama on taxes; Paul faults spending

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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.

Democrats

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.

Republicans:

Bush: Tweets many Wall Street Journal stories. On Facebook, promotes immigration book, education reform.

Christie: More engaged in Twitter than Facebook.

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.

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. Commanding presence on Twitter, too, via an account associated with his PAC and another as congressman.

Related: Despite loss, Paul Ryan has bright future 

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