"It will be next spring that candidates will start to come in and we'll start to see the 'is he/she or isn't he/she running for president? They must be, otherwise they wouldn't be in Iowa' stories," Woolson said.
Iowan Jackie Norris, a former Obama campaign adviser, sees it as "a wide open year ripe with opportunities for veteran and newcomers alike. After two successive terms it's the party's opportunity to create the post-Obama view of the future. "
Part of the exercise for would-be candidates is figuring out how to slip into a presidential proving ground, make a solid impression and mask any White House ambitions by telling anyone who asks that a campaign is a distant proposition. Part of the calculation is about how to afford it all in a campaign finance system stripped of many regulations by the courts.
Part of the challenge: introducing themselves to voters likely not ready to turn to the next campaign.
Bakst reported from Richmond, Va. Associated Press writer Matthew Daly in Washington contributed to this report.