The first Republican debate has been announced. The early media handicapping has begun. Anticipation in the political community is running high. By those signs, the curtain is set to rise on the 2012 GOP presidential campaign. But what about the candidates?
At this point four years ago, the race for the White House was already in high gear. In contrast to all that, the Republicans’ 2012 campaign is off to a less-hurried start. Candidates are gauging fundraising needs and laying plans. Is this a breath of sanity brought to a process that has moved ever earlier with each poll? Perhaps. But there are more practical reasons that the candidates are heading for the starting gate at a more deliberative pace.
The biggest is the uncertainty that surrounds the GOP nomination battle. Compared with previous campaigns, no Republican dominates the field. No one can claim - or seemingly wants to claim - front-runner status. Thus, few fear that holding off for a while will damage their chances of winning the nod.
Another reason is the political upheaval of 2010. With a new Republican majority in the House and more Republicans in the Senate, more of the focus early next year will be on political battles in Washington than on the jousting among presidential candidates.
At this point, only a few potential candidates are considered certain to run. Among the most significant are:
Most of the rest of the prospective field aren’t hurried to make public declarations, beyond standard statements that they will carefully consider their options through the rest of the year.
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