When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told us this week that the 2012 GOP presidential field will be "wide open," we had no idea just how many Republicans might be marching to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada for the opening caucuses and primaries. Including Barbour, who will decide after the fall midterm elections but who is expected to run in 2012, Washington political insiders tell us that nine Republicans are almost a lock to run and another eight are considering a presidential bid.
Many former presidential campaign organizers say that now is the time to be considering a bid because by spring of next year, the list of announced candidates will be firm and those in will be divvying up staff and raising money.
The top tier of candidates includes many in the news like Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, but some newbies have scratched their way into the category like budget-slashing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Long shots include some who've already made trips to Iowa, like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
"A starting place. That's all anybody has," said Barbour, dismissing talk of front-runners this far out of the election.
Here's the latest list of those who want President Obama's job.
The A-Team Nine
- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner, largely because he was the runner-up to Sen. John McCain in 2008.
- Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has recently made a name for herself by endorsing winning Tea Party candidates.
- Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a social conservative in his second term.
- Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a fiscal conservative in his second term.
- Mike Huckabee, a Fox host and former 2008 presidential candidate.
- Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
- South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a conservative and darling of the party for defeating former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle in 2004.
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose budget cutting in his first year has impressed many in GOP ranks who want him to apply his touch to Washington.
- Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, already running and showing his conservative side.
The Eight Long Shots
- Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a hero to fiscal conservatives.
- South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a Palinesque conservative who's helped steer the U.S. Senate to the right.
- Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the gadfly 2008 candidate who kept a very loyal following.
- South Carolina Republican gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley, who hasn't even won yet but is being heralded as the new Sarah Palin.
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush who has rejected a run but who still gets kudos for being the "smart Bush" for his successful two terms in Florida.
- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who'd be the social conservative in the race.
- Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, a foreign policy hawk who conservatives adore.
- Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal whose effort to protect his shores from the Gulf Oil Spill won him notoriety lost when he gave a lackluster national political address in 2009.