On Tuesday, a progressive network of foreign affairs experts plans to release a document aimed in part at influencing the White House race, one of several formal and informal attempts in the works aimed at shaping an already lively back-and-forth on America’s role in the world.The Truman National Security Project’s platform touches on subjects ranging from countering violent extremism to upgrading the U.S. energy grid. At times deeply wonky and somewhat idealistic, the paper calls for ambitious American leadership at a time of “blurring borders” and “contested spaces,” according to an advance copy.The Truman platform comes amid growing recognition that foreign policy and national security, which rarely decide presidential elections, may play an out-sized role this time for at least two key reasons: the U.S. economy is less of a concern and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group in an increasingly tumultuous Middle East. Heather Hurlburt, who studies policy and political discourse at the New America think tank, said Democrats or Republicans trying to influence 2016 should try to do so soon, before the various campaigns lock down all their foreign policy advisers, carve out their positions — and expect the wonks to fall in line.“This is the moment that when people have smart ideas and thoughts there’s an incentive to get them out there in public,” Hurlburt said. “Now is the time for ideas.” Still, the sessions give attendees ideas to chew over, which they can potentially use to advise campaigns. The group was borne out of the recognition that Democrats need to come up with innovative, out-of-the-box ideas even when they are in control of the executive branch — and that they shouldn’t just leave that work to the Obama administration.Vikram Singh, one of the group’s coordinators, said that although Democrats realize they face a challenge on foreign policy and national security in 2016, they don’t feel that Republicans have put forth much in the way of alternatives.He and others said that Republican calls for tougher policies and better leadership, for example, haven’t been accompanied by concrete pledges, say, to send U.S. combat troops to Syria to fight the Islamic State.“When you dig in to what Republicans are saying, they have a really hard time,” said Singh, who also is a vice president at the left-leaning Center for American Progress.Foreign policy and national security wonks on the right have long assumed those issues will be a major part of the 2016 election, and they have launched their own initiatives aimed at influencing the race. Perhaps the best known is the John Hay Initiative, which brings together more than 250 experts and former senior officials, has some 23 working groups and has helped staff some of the Republican campaigns.The group was launched by some of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s former advisers in the days after his loss in 2012. “We have tried to be a resource on foreign policy and national security to a number of candidates,” said co-founder Brian Hook, a former assistant secretary of state in the George W. Bush administration. “We work with them in varying ways.”Republicans already are going after Clinton’s foreign policy credentials and trying to tie her to the Obama administration’s perceived weaknesses, even though Clinton has long been considered more of a hawk than the president in whose Cabinet she served.GOP candidates question whether Clinton’s tenure at the State Department was fruitful, pointing out that her attempts to “reset” the relationship with Russia yielded little, and criticizing her response to the attacks on American officials in Benghazi, Libya.Aside from think-tank types (some of whom may be angling for a job in a future Democratic administration and thus are careful in their comments), some Democrats currently in public office also are speaking out about the need for a new foreign policy vision.In an essay earlier this month for Foreign Affairs titled “Principles for a Progressive Foreign Policy,” Senators Chris Murphy, Brian Schatz and Martin Heinrich sketched out a more active role for Congress, saying it can “no longer stand idly by, simply reacting to world events.”The Democratic senators’ eight principles touched on many of the same topics as the Truman Project’s strategic platform, including the potential security threats posed by climate change and the importance of defending human rights and gender equality abroad. With the election still a year and a half away, Democrats insist they have plenty of confidence and time to prepare. The Democratic front-runner for president is, after all, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who can boast more foreign policy and national security experience than any of the many candidates on the GOP side.Still, there is a lingering worry that Republican allegations that President Barack Obama has diminished America’s stature will overshadow Democratic efforts to promote solutions to a host of global challenges.“It’s incumbent on progressives and on Democrats to put forward a compelling, clear, forward-looking affirmative vision,” said Michael Breen, executive director of the Truman Project.Republicans have traditionally been viewed by voters as stronger on national security, but the turmoil following the U.S. invasion of Iraq briefly helped give Democrats the advantage. In more recent years, however, the Republicans have rebounded: A Gallup poll last September that asked which party would better protect the U.S. against terrorism gave the GOP a 23-point edge.Those numbers weigh on Democrats, some of whom have been engaged in formal and unofficial efforts to change the trajectory.Over the past year, some 40 Democratic foreign policy wonks have been meeting informally every six weeks or so to discuss the challenges facing the party and a future administration. The so-called “Unison group,” named after the Virginia town in which an early meeting was held, doesn’t plan to issue papers or take official positions, and it is not affiliated with a campaign. Participants work both in and out of government but attend meetings in their personal capacity.