Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is the first Republican who has been elected to office to officially indicate he is mulling a White House run. The GOP is waiting to see who else will commit to seeking the party's nomination. We're watching those flirting with the media and fundraisers, hinting that they might be ready to commit to the race.
The former Minnesota governor has been exhaustively stumping his presidential bid for months, attracting supporters in Washington at CPAC and in Iowa at the Faith and Freedom Coalition. On March 21, he officially announced that he would be forming an exploratory committee in a video on his Facebook page. Sources say his campaign is likely to be based in the Twin Cities.
On the day his successor was announced, news came that outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman is making moves toward seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Hotline On Call reported on March 9 that calls are being made in New Hampshire on Huntsman's behalf. Richard Brothers, formerly the state's commissioner of Employment Security, is busy lining up key people to make a plug for Huntsman ahead of the crucial primary.
On March 1, National Journal reported that Gingrich has formed an exploratory committee to run for president in 2012. The former Speaker of the House is the first with a history of leadership within the GOP to make an official move towards the presidency.
Out: Sen. John Thune of South Dakota announced February 22 that he would not be seeking his party's nomination for president. Earlier this month, when speculation about Thune's aspirations hung in the air, he told National Review that he was the best match against Obama. "I am not afraid of a fight," Thune said. "If I get into this, it's something I get into with all of my heart."
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told Fox News Sunday that he is not going to make a decision until April. At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Barbour sharply criticized President Obama and warmly recalled his own days of service to President Reagan. At the National Governors Association meeting in Washington in late February, Barbour hinted that he has been fundraising for his campaign. "If I do decide to run, I don't begin it from a standing start," he said. "And I've been very pleased with the response."
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels said he will decide "no later" than May and potentially early April. At CPAC, Daniels called for a shift in the party's tone. "I submit that, as we ask Americans to join us on such a boldly different course," Daniels said, "it would help if they liked us, just a bit."
Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts and author of 2010's "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness," told Politico in November that he would make his decision in early spring. Romney's Facebook page gives a "sneak peak into Mitt's platform should we convince him to run in 2012" and has drawn more than 23,500 members.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has been anything but coy about his presidential ambitions. Though his standing in the CPAC straw poll was less than inspiring, Fox News -- for which Santorum is a contributor -- says he'll announce "in the next month."
It's hard to tell whether or not Donald Trump is serious about a Republican presidential bid -- he's teased the idea for years -- but the real-estate-tycoon-turned-reality-TV-star said at CPAC that he'd make a decision by June, once this season of The Apprentice is wrapped. Trump told CNN's Piers Morgan recently, "I think I could win; otherwise I wouldn't do it. I'm not doing it to come in fourth place."
Political observers are also closely eyeing several other potential contenders as they toy with the idea of a White House run: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who won Iowa in his 2008 run and who polls well among social conservatives; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who's been anything but silent since her 2008 vice presidential nomination; and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the landslide winner of the CPAC straw poll, who told National Journal he'd announce his candidacy "whenever I have to."