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Presidential checklist: jockeying for position

Monday - 5/12/2014, 11:42pm  ET

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivers the keynote speech at the Liberty University commencement ceremony in Lynchburg, Va., Saturday, May 10, 2014. (AP Photo/News & Daily Advance, Parker Michels-Boyce)

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.

Aside from Clinton, the former secretary of state, senator and first lady, potential Democratic contenders include Vice President Joe Biden, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley. Among Republicans in the mix: Bush, the former Florida governor; New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie; Cruz; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Kentucky Sen. Paul; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

A look at who's doing what:

NONDENIAL DENIAL: Cagey words that cloak presidential ambitions, none too convincingly.

Democrats

Biden: "If I decide to run, believe me, this would be the first guy I talk to. But that decision hasn't been made, for real. And there's plenty of time to make that." April, CBS, in joint interview with President Barack Obama.

Clinton: "I haven't made up my mind. I really have not." -- December, ABC.

Cuomo: "I'm sorry, I'm losing you. We have a technical difficulty. I'm running for governor of the state of New York." -- Seeming not to hear a question about his presidential intentions. February, Fox Business Network.

O'Malley: "No one ever goes down this road, I would hope, without giving it a lot of consideration and a lot of preparation and a lot of thought work, and so that's what I'm doing." -- February, speaking to reporters in Baltimore.

Republicans

Bush: "I can honestly tell you that I don't know what I'm going to do." -- His standard disclaimer. Says he'll decide by end of year whether to run. One factor in his decision: Whether he can run an optimistic campaign and avoid the "mud fight" of politics.

Christie: "I am enormously flattered that folks would talk about me in my party as someone who they think could be a candidate for president. But I am absolutely in -- nowhere near that consideration process." -- Jan. 9 news conference addressing the scandal over Fort Lee, N.J., traffic tie-ups.

Cruz: "My focus is entirely on the U.S. Senate." -- His standard disclaimer

Jindal: "My honest answer is I don't know what I'm going to be doing in 2016." -- February, speaking to press while in Washington for governors meeting.

Paul: "We're definitely talking about it, my family is talking about it. I truly won't make my mind up until after the 2014 elections. But I haven't been shy in saying we're thinking about it." -- March 9, Fox News.

Perry: "I don't know whether I'm going to run for the presidency. I'm going to spend the time in preparation." -- April, in Ohio.

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