(Reuters) - Big-name Republicans have begun maneuvering for their party’s presidential nomination in 2012 to try to deny President Barack Obama a second four-year term.
Several possible candidates are testing the waters, visiting early voting states and lining up supporters.
Here is a list of prominent Republicans who are seriously considering a run for the White House.
If there is a Republican front-runner, Romney is probably it. He was out-dueled by John McCain in the 2008 Republican race but ever since then has been plotting a return.
He is independently wealthy, has a strong organization and is prepared to tout his business experience as a way to attack Obama’s stewardship of the U.S. economy.
A weak spot for Romney is over the healthcare plan he helped develop for Massachusetts when he was the state’s governor. It bears a strong resemblance to the Obama healthcare overhaul that conservatives want to repeal.
Romney took the problem head-on in a recent speech in New Hampshire, saying the approach he used was specific for Massachusetts and would not work as a national policy.
“Our experiment wasn’t perfect -- some things worked, some didn‘t, and some things I’d change. One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover,” he said.
Romney has positioned himself for another White House bid with repeated visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, early voting states in the candidate-selection process, and has gone on a book tour.
Known for his success in the world of finance, Romney’s Free and Strong America political action committee has raised millions of dollars.
He has been leading opinion polls in New Hampshire, where he has a vacation home that gives him a natural advantage in the state’s key primary next winter.
Romney is at least weeks away from an announcement.
The former Minnesota governor could become the first prominent Republican to announce his candidacy. He emerged on the national stage in 2008 when he was on John McCain’s short list to be the Republican vice presidential candidate.
“T-Paw,” as he is known by his supporters, was a popular governor in a state that has seen big political swings over the years.
Pawlenty eliminated a $4.3 billion budget deficit without raising taxes and has been a staunch voice against abortion and stem cell research. Critics say he lacks charisma.
In “Courage to Stand,” a memoir timed to coincide with his expected campaign, Pawlenty denounced “runaway spending” in Washington and blamed Obama for a mountain of debt. He spoke at a major Tea Party event in Phoenix last weekend, in a sign he wants to win over fiscal conservatives.
Pawlenty is expected to make an announcement in the next month or so.
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has major star power in the Republican Party. Since resigning as governor of Alaska in 2009, she has made herself a millionaire with two books, a TV show called “Sarah Palin’s Alaska,” and many speaking engagements.
She is a leading voice in the fiscally conservative Tea Party movement and enhanced her influence by campaigning for its candidates across the country in last year’s congressional elections.
But some Republican heavyweights are leery of Palin because she is a polarizing figure and her support seems limited to conservatives. In a self-inflicted wound, she sparked a controversy last month with comments about a media “blood libel” against her after the Arizona shootings on January 8.
Palin is still keeping her supporters guessing on whether she will in fact run.
“I‘m not saying it’s going to be me offering my name up in the name of service,” she said in Woodbury, New York. “There is so much to be considered, but I certainly believe that this is going to be an unconventional political cycle.”
Palin has no timetable for deciding on whether to run but if she does decide to give it a try she might leave it until late because she already has name recognition.
The governor of Indiana generated a lot of enthusiasm in conservative circles with a speech in which he compared the U.S. fiscal situation to the “red menace” the United States fought during the Cold War.
“The second worst outcome I can imagine for next year would be to lose to the current president and subject the nation to what might be a fatal last dose of statism. The worst would be to win the election and then prove ourselves incapable of turning the ship of state before it went on the rocks, with us at the helm,” he said.
As governor of Indiana, Daniels is considered a highly competent manager and all-around smart operator. He cut his Washington teeth as budget director for Republican President George W. Bush.
But Daniels lacks pizzazz in a party that needs an energetic performer. His comedy skills will be tested when he speaks to the Gridiron Club’s dinner of skit and song in Washington on March 12 before an audience of reporters and VIPs.
Daniels is to make up his mind on whether he will run in April, when the Indiana legislative session ends.
Reporting by Steve Holland in Washington; editing by John Whitesides