WASHINGTON (AP) — In the latest prep work for a presidential campaign, Rand Paul is conspicuously courting moderate and establishment Republicans while Ted Cruz keeps up a travel schedule that has 2016 written all over it.
Jeb Bush is stirring from something of a political snooze and a half-dozen other credible prospects are getting their voices heard in the din.
As for Democrats, a Hillary Rodham Clinton book coming out in June is about as exciting as it gets these days.
The suspense of a Democratic nomination race is in suspension until the party's dominant figure decides whether to run or someone goes for the prize without waiting for her to make up her mind. She sounds and acts a bit more like a candidate by the month, which doesn't necessarily mean she'll be one.
In both parties, potential contenders are best judged by what they do — and where they go, like Iowa and New Hampshire — not by what they say. Most are keeping up with the fiction that they are not really thinking about running for president even as they transparently position themselves to run for president.
Cruz has visited Iowa four times in the past eight months, and New Hampshire and South Carolina three times each, and claimed that's got nothing to do with presidential campaign politics, which no one believes. "I think it's too early to worry about 2016," the Texas senator said with a straight face.
For months, many prospective 2016 presidential candidates have been networking with party leaders, donors and activists. They've published or announced books. They're using TV appearances to become household names, at least in households tuned to the Sunday or cable news shows.
With a few notable exceptions, their preparations have accelerated since The Associated Press began broadly tracking their activities last summer. Yet even as most march through a pre-campaign checklist, they are keeping their options open should they decide to sit out the race.