ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING: For voters who want to support doers, not just talkers.
Joe Biden: Point man on gun control, which failed. Lots on foreign policy. Negotiated fiscal cliff deal. December 2013 trip to Asia put him front and center in regional dispute over China’s new air defense zone.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: Record as secretary of state, senator and first lady.
Andrew 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.
Martin O’Malley: Toughened gun laws, repealed death penalty, saw voters approve gay marriage after he got behind legislation to approve it, set up a framework to develop offshore wind power.
Jeb Bush: As Florida governor, revamped state educational system, cut taxes, managed state through hurricanes.
Ted Cruz: Leading force in dispute that partly shut the government, 21-hour Senate speech against Obama’s health law. Texas’ longest-serving solicitor general argued before U.S. Supreme Court nine times.
Chris Christie: Won November 2013 re-election, becoming first Republican to earn more than 50 percent of New Jersey vote in a quarter century. Led state’s response to Superstorm Sandy. Agreed to expand state’s Medicaid program under the new health law while some other Republican governors have refused to do so. Vetoed a bill that would have sanctioned gay marriage, but declined to appeal a court ruling that legalized it.
Bobby Jindal: Privatized much of Louisiana’s Medicaid program, shrank public hospital system, signed statewide voucher program that covers private school tuition for certain students. Signed abortion restrictions, fought liberalization of adoption law, making it impossible for gay couples to adopt jointly. Hurricane and Gulf oil spill disaster response.
Rand Paul: One-man, nearly 13-hour Senate filibuster to protest drone policy put him at forefront of civil liberties debate.
Rick Perry: “Texas Miracle” job-creation boom has seen state create a third of the net new jobs nationwide over last decade, although Texas has disproportionately high percentage of hourly workers earning minimum wage or less. Helped muscle through new abortion restrictions.
Marco Rubio: Broker of Senate immigration overhaul, though he’s gone quiet on the issue. Early leader of effort to link financing of health care law to government shutdown. Working with anti-abortion groups on Senate version of bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks.
Paul Ryan: Negotiated December 2013 bipartisan budget deal that scaled back across-the-board spending cuts, drawing contrast with potential rivals who opposed it. Budget-hawk record to be judged on. Emerging as influential moderate on immigration.
Rick Santorum: Making Christian-themed, family-friendly movies at the moment; record from Senate days.
Scott Walker: Curbs on public service unions became national flashpoint, but he won the effort — and the recall election that followed. Court decision pending on a challenge to a key provision of that law.
TAKE A NATIONAL STAND: Effective state governance is nice but leaders must build national stature on issues of the day.
Biden: Eclectic. Guns, violence against women, gay rights, veterans.
Clinton: Eclectic. 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.
Bush: Education, immigration, economy.
Christie: Moderate on the reach and functions of government; bipartisanship.
Cruz: Anti-health law, tea party agenda.
Jindal: A record of privatization to show he means government should be trimmed, happy to carry a social conservative banner.
Paul: Tea party plus. Fiscal conservative, criticizes surveillance state. Praised Supreme Court gay marriage ruling as one that avoids “culture war.” Health law scold.
Perry: Prominent voice on conservative issues since before the birth of the tea party. Wants to ban all abortion in Texas, relax environmental regulations, boost states’ rights; opposes gay marriage.
Rubio: Economy, abortion, tea party fiscal conservatism; immigration liberalization if he decides to get back to it. Another voice against health care law.
Ryan: Cutting spending, taking on entitlements, rolling back Obama’s health law.
Santorum: Social conservative activism goes way back. Focus on blue-collar economic opportunity.
Walker: Fiscal stewardship, from a GOP point of view. Tough guy against the unions. Says GOP in Congress is the party of no.
BAGGAGE TO CHECK: It’s never too early to deal with skeletons in the closet; rivals will be rattling them soon enough.
Biden: Flubs, fibs, age. Deflection: “I am who I am.”
Clinton: Benghazi, Libya; 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.
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 Obama and Bill Clinton.
Cruz: Reputation as a hotheaded upstart, also part of his appeal. Polarizing within his party. Also comes with birther baggage: Questions have been raised in some quarters about his constitutional standing to become president because of his birth in Canada, to a Cuban father and American mother. Deflection: Plans to renounce Canadian citizenship.
Jindal: Ambitious plan to replace state’s personal and corporate taxes with higher sales taxes flopped, delivered dud of a speech when given juicy platform of responding to Obama’s first presidential address to Congress in 2009. Deflection: Poking fun at himself. Jindal administration’s award of a $200 million Medicaid contract is under investigation by state and federal grand juries.
Paul: Dear old dad: Must move beyond Ron Paul’s fringe reputation. Bridge-burning in Congress endears him to tea party, could bite him otherwise. Deflection: GOP outreach to minorities. The Washington Times canceled his column after he was found to have used passages from other people in his speeches and writings as if they were his own. Deflection: Promising proper citations and footnotes for his pronouncements “if it will make people leave me the hell alone.”
Perry: “Oops!” Memories of his stumbling 2012 campaign, a quick progression from a front-runner to flameout. Deflection: Poked fun at himself for forgetting in a GOP debate one of the federal departments he would close as president, Energy.
Rubio: Rift with tea party constituency on immigration, “a real trial for me.” Deflection: Go aggressive on a matter of common ground, which he did in pledging to take apart the health law. And stop talking about immigration. Response to Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech was remembered only for his clumsy reach for water. Deflection: Make fun of himself.
Ryan: Budget axe cuts both ways — catnip to conservatives but people want their Medicare. Carries stigma of 2012 election loss as running mate. Tea party not happy with his late 2013 budget deal.
Santorum: Overshadowed by newer conservative figures, conceivably out-popes the pope on some social issues. Deflection: being overshadowed means being an underdog, and he can thrive at that. Feisty 2012 campaign became the biggest threat to Romney’s march to the nomination.
Walker: 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.
RUN SHADOW CAMPAIGN: One way to run without running is to have a political action committee to promote ideas or other candidates for office, or to hire advisers who can switch to a campaign when the time comes.
Biden: Constrained by his current job, but tapped longtime adviser and former lobbyist Steve Ricchetti to be his new chief of staff; maintains close contact with political advisers past and present.
Clinton: Ready for Hillary super PAC set up by supporters is laying groundwork. Several old Clinton hands are advising the group, including Craig T. Smith and Harold Ickes
Cuomo: Overshadowed by Clinton’s shadow campaign. Considered a likely contender if Clinton ends up not running.
O’Malley: Set up a PAC called O’Say Can You See and hired two people for fundraising and communications.
Bush: He’s a Bush, so he’s got connections. Statehouse lobbyist Sally Bradshaw, chief of staff when he was governor, is his go-to political person.
Cruz: Has leadership PAC, Jobs Growth and Economic Freedom. Has been one of the largest beneficiaries of Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, and has gotten millions of dollars and grassroots logical support from the Club for Growth, FreedomWorks and Ending Spending PAC. Heritage Action PAC helped sponsor Cruz’s summer anti-health law trip around Texas and the country. Chief of staff Chip Roy ghost-wrote Perry’s 2010 book about federal overreach.
Christie: New Republican Governors Association chairmanship allows him to grow his national profile with voters and party officials with regular travel and key appearances. Began building broad coalition of donors through his national fundraising tour in spring 2013. Hired senior Romney media mind Russ Schriefer in late spring.
Jindal: Created Washington-based nonprofit, America Next, in October 2013 to push policy ideas nationally. For executive director, tapped Jill Neunaber, who worked on Romney’s presidential campaign in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Paul: Has leadership PAC called Rand PAC, maintains ties to father’s political network in early primary states.
Perry: Created Americans for Economic Freedom PAC in fall 2013 to raise his profile again, help him test the waters and broadcast ads promoting Republican leadership around the country. Group used more than $200,000 left over from the PAC that raised millions for his 2012 campaign.
Rubio: Expects to begin more aggressive travel to early voting states in 2014. Reclaim America PAC led by former deputy chief of staff, Terry Sullivan, veteran of South Carolina politics, expected to be active behind GOP candidates across country in 2014 midterms.
Ryan: His Prosperity Action PAC.
Santorum: Keeps in touch with chief supporters of his winning 2012 Iowa caucus campaign, giving him a leg up on a campaign organization in the state.
Walker: Consults with top Republican governor strategists such as Phil Musser and Nick Ayers.
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.
Biden: Not active on Facebook, occasional contributor to his office’s vigorous Twitter account.
Clinton: Nearly 1 million followers on Twitter, her preferred social media outlet.
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, banjo and tin whistle. On Facebook, his PAC-generated page is more active than official governor’s account.
Bush: Tweets and posts many Wall Street Journal stories, education thoughts and some Bush family doings.
Christie: 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.
Cruz: Active on Facebook and Twitter, poses with a hunting rifle on his campaign accounts and in the usual suit and tie with flag backdrop on his Senate accounts. Much content is pumped out by staff.
Jindal: 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.
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.
Perry: Active. One popular tweet was accidental — from his pocket, he said — and consisted of “I.” Followers jumped in to complete his sentence. One offered: “I ... really like Obamacare.” (He doesn’t.) Facebook appears staff-generated. Calls himself a presidential candidate, apparently a leftover from last campaign.
Rubio: Aggressive, with large followings, appears to make personal use of Twitter more than staff-generated Facebook. Takes lots of shots at the health law. On Facebook, lists “Pulp Fiction” movie and “The Tudors” historical fiction TV series among favorites.
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. 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.
Santorum: Active on Twitter and Facebook, where he relentlessly plugs his new movie, gives away tickets and goes after the health law.
Walker: Posts vigorously on Facebook and on his Twitter accounts. “Wow is it cold out.” Many exclamation points. “Glad USDA is keeping cranberries on school menus. I drink several bottles of cranberry juice each day!” Promotes policy achievements and his TV appearances, reflects on sports, pokes Obama.