Think of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's newly announced bid for the GOP presidential nomination as the opening pitch in the nation's 2016 pre-exhibition season.
To get in the spirit, listen for a moment to Nassau-bred Rep. Peter King -- who holds himself out as a possible rival long-shot candidate -- reacting on CNN to this week's Cruz news.
"To me, he's a guy with a big mouth and no results," said King (R-Seaford).
There you have it, folks . . . and the almost-pre-season is underway.
Whether King is right about Cruz may be beside the point. New York Republicans -- outnumbered and outgunned statewide -- usually end up looking in from the left-field bleachers of national presidential politics anyway.
Next year, the state party's practical goals must involve keeping the State Senate in Republican hands and holding or expanding the GOP's share of the state's congressional delegation.
For local purposes, the top of the 2016 ticket tends to be important even if the national GOP won't pour money or effort into the state. Voters in blue states such as New York turn out heavily for Democrats in presidential years. This could especially hurt the local GOP down-ballot if someone pegged as extreme by the mainstream gets the national nomination.
One seasoned GOP stalwart, however, sees a possible break coming -- from the Democratic side -- and told a reporter: "YOU have a better chance of getting the nomination than Cruz. He's not going to be the nominee by any stretch.
"Whether it's going to be Jeb Bush or Scott Walker or Rand Paul, I think whoever the candidate will have a tough time against Hillary Clinton," the widely expected Democratic nominee, the politico said. "But what hurt us with [President Barack] Obama was the minority turnout that Obama produced."
He continued: "I doubt you'd have that kind of turnout with Hillary. Those in Long Island or some of the other suburban areas might vote for her -- but then, as they did in the last year's [gubernatorial] election, they'd split the ticket and go for Republicans down-ballot."
As the cycle goes, national election years cost the state GOP some ground -- which the party works to gain back in statewide election years.
All is speculative at this stage in the national doings, another GOP insider warned. State party officials are expected to mix, for example, in June in Philadelphia at the three-day Northeast Republican Leadership Conference. In Florida last weekend, expected Republican candidates addressed Republican National Committee donors one at a time.
Also next year the Republicans, who hold eight of New York's 27 House seats, are expected push to flip the 18th Congressional District now represented by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-Cold Spring) and the 25th District of Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester).
Closer to home, Republican insiders say, the Queens Republicans -- riddled for years by factional warfare -- are expected to show a relatively united front with the expected election in September of former Rep. Bob Turner as chairman.
That's all just at the start of the pre-exhibition season.