An east coast governor rumored to be pondering the presidential race in 2016 spoke to Iowa Democrats at their party’s National Convention in Charlotte today, but he’s not exactly a household name in Iowa.

United States senators from Virginia and Minnesota were on the speaker’s roster at the Iowa delegation’s breakfast meeting, as was the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association.

“I don’t recall his name,” delegate Andy Bock of Ames admitted Tuesday.

His name is Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley.

“Once somebody’s name gets in my mind, I know that they’re more real,” Bock said, laughing.

The reality of politics is this kind of behind-the-scenes schmoozing with Iowa activists starts far in advance of the actual voting, to get a candidate’s name “out there.” Kevin Perkins, a Democrat from Davenport, has watched the parade of potential presidential candidates this week in Charlotte.

“In the back of my mind I’m thinking: ‘We’re Iowa. We’re first in the nation. These guys have already started their campaign process,'” Perkins said. “…That’s how this thing works.”

But Perkins isn’t ready to choose a favorite.

“I think I’m just going to wait ’til 2016 to figure that one out,” Perkins said. “I’m having enough trouble here with my energy for 2012 getting going.”

Patricia Ritchie of Westside did a little research on Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa before she got to Charlotte for the convention. Villaraigosa spoke to the Iowa delegation Monday, then promptly told reporters he hadn’t decided what he’ll do when his term as mayor ends.

“You know he’s thinking about it,” Ritchie said. “I mean, that’s just the reality of it.”

The “it” is the arduous process of running for president and Ritchie thinks Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who spoke to Iowans Monday, is a presidential prospect, along with the others.

“I really believe that we might have something there because look at the inspiration that they gave us, the rejuvenation, the energy,” Ritchie said. “And I think that’s what our party needs…young candidates like that.”

But a couple of seasoned candidates — Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — may run for president in 2016. Mike Newell of Urbandale, a delegate at the Democratic National Convention, said Clinton would “certainly” have his support if she runs.

“Secretary Clinton has done many wonderful things for our country,” Newell said. “…She is an avid campaigner. She knows the issues, gaining experience as a senator from New York and also the secretary of has given her a vast experience that not too many people possess.”

While Newell identifies Clinton as the “front-runner” should she choose to run, Senator Tom Harkin isn’t so sure.

“Oh, I don’t think there are any front-runners for 2016, not right now, ” Harkin said Tuesday. “…I think 2016 will be wide open, just like ’08 was wide open.”

Harkin’s annual fall fundraiser, the Harkin Steak Fry, has in the past served as key event for past candidates like former Vice President Al Gore. Harkin’s special guest this year is the Maryland governor.

“Governor Martin O’Malley, he’s one of our up-and-coming stars,” Harkin said. “Bright guy — I like him a lot. I knew him when he was mayor of Baltimore and I think you’re going to see one of new, bright stars of the Democratic Party.”

In 2006, the junior senator from Illinois was the keynote speaker at Harkin’s Steak Fry, then a few months later Barack Obama formally jumped into the presidential race. Harkin, though, downplays the idea he’s helping O’Malley try to follow in Obama’s footsteps.

“I’m not looking at that,” Harkin said. “I’m looking at this year and let’s keep our sights fixed on this election. We’ll worry about 2016 later on sometime.”

The 2016 Iowa Caucuses are about three-and-a-half years away.