To the casual observer, it may seem early to be sizing up the 2012 Republican presidential field. But likely candidates for the GOP presidential nomination have been working feverishly behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for a credible run at the GOP nomination. In the following slides, CBS News presents a brief sketch of the strengths and weaknesses for 13 candidates we see as potentially serious challengers for the nomination.
Strengths: First and foremost: money. Bachmann is a prolific fundraiser and she's able to use the Tea Party label to her financial advantage. She has been all over Iowa, meeting with important Republicans who could help facilitate a run. And with fellow conservative Representative Mike Pence not running, Bachmann can try to lay claim to the social AND fiscally conservative mantle.
Weaknesses: She's a somewhat-isolated figure in Congress whose attempts to join House leadership were rejected. Her rhetoric and aggressive posture have earned comparisons to the most divisive aspects of Sarah Palin. And her post-State of the Union speech was panned both for content and staging, as Bachmann was seen on network television pointing at hokey bar graphs and looking at the wrong camera.
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Mississippi GovernorStrengths: Fundraising. Barbour has a strong, national donor base. And an impressive operation with his political action committee, HaleyPAC. Barbour is also well liked in Washington and known for his personal charm.
Weaknesses: Barbour is a former tobacco lobbyist who will have to battle the perception that he is a consummate DC insider - he was previously the head of the Republican National Committee and is a long-time Washington power broker. He made an early mistake in praising the segregationist "citizens councils" that resisted integration through economic and political pressure.
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Business executive and conservative columnistStrengths: He's the only African-American Republican in the field. He has earned early attention because he was the first candidate to file the paperwork and declare a run for the presidency.
Weaknesses: He lacks the name recognition, infrastructure, and support to make a serious run for the White House.
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Indiana GovernorStrengths: Daniels has a successful business record like Mitt Romney -- but without having passed a health care bill mandating coverage while serving governor. He has offered of the most thought-out criticisms of the health care bill, explaining in a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed that the costs to states is just too high.
Weaknesses: Daniels may have already committed a fatal blow to his campaign when he proposed that Republicans call a truce on social issues. That's not a popular stance in socially-conservative Iowa and South Carolina, crucial early voting states. Daniels also would struggle with name recognition and fundraising early in the process.
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Former Speaker of the HouseStrengths: Gingrich is ambitious and is seen within his party as an idea man who understands policy. And he works hard to get what he wants. One GOP watcher in Iowa even has Gingrich at the top of his list of potential 2012 candidates, writing, "one would be hard pressed to find a candidate that's done more to reach out and talk to Iowans over the past year or so than Newt Gingrich."
Weaknesses: Gingrich's personal history -- he's been married three times -- could hurt him with social conservatives. His speaking tours and frequent media appearances also provide a treasure trove of controversial comments that opponents can cite to criticize the former speaker. And Gingrich is anything but a fresh face.
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Former Mayor of New York CityStrengths: Giuliani is a moderate, no-nonsense, pro-security Republican. His work reforming the nation's largest city is still remembered and his tough on crime, tough on terror beliefs could play well with most voters, particularly if the debate shifts to national security.
Weaknesses: His poor showing in 2008 suggests that many voters aren't very excited about a Giuliani candidacy. He is not particularly known for fiscal conservatism, the animating issue for the Tea Party. And his moderation on social issues is a hard sell with socially conservative voters.
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Former Arkansas governorStrengths: Huckabee, a former Baptist pastor, is enormously popular with the Christian right and the GOP base more broadly. He is a known and reliable social conservative amidst a largely fiscal conservative field. Plus Huckabee has that certain likeability factor.
Weaknesses: Huckabee's opponents could attack his judgment by pointing to his decision as governor to commute the 35-year sentence of Maurice Clemmons, who killed four police officers in Washington State in 2009. Fiscal conservatives have criticized him for his spending as Arkansas governor, and he lacks the fundraising network necessary to maintain a campaign.
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U.S. ambassador to China, Former governor of UtahStrengths: Huntsman has the top foreign policy chops of anyone in the GOP field. He knows business and knows the economic issues facing the country and the business community vis-a-vis China. And he's a fresh face - he's new to the field and only 50 years old. Huntsman got a big boost recently when he announced he's stepping down from the ambassadorship to return to the United States and, presumably, contemplate a presidential run. He's a relative moderate and if he could break out in the primaries could be a formidable foe for his former boss.
Weaknesses: He worked for Barack Obama, one of the few people GOP primary voters agree on (it seems they don't much like him). It could be tricky for Huntsman to show separation from the Obama Administration and its policies. Beyond that, Huntsman would have trouble with social conservative GOP voters, particularly in Iowa, for his support for same sex unions. Fiscal conservatives, meanwhile, will object to his support for Cap-and-trade energy proposals. Huntsman also could face questions, like Romney, about his Mormon faith.
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2008 Vice Presidential candidate and former Alaska governorStrengths: Loyal supporters and vast name recognition. Love her or hate her, Palin is a household name. And the millions of Americans who support her do so very strongly. Her influence was illustrated last year when she boosted dozens of successful congressional candidates with her endorsement.
Weaknesses: Along with high name recognition comes high negatives. The more most Americans learn about Sarah Palin, the less they seem to like her. According to a recent CBS News poll, 57 percent of Americans now have unfavorable opinions of Palin. Her public missteps in response to the shooting in Tucson and President Obama's State of the Union have further eroded her public support.
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Texas congressman Strengths: Paul's limited government vision has a loyal following. He has been a unique voice in presidential politics, and he generated passionate support in his 2008 presidential run. He has a consistent record having voted against bailouts for big banks.
Weaknesses: His loyal following is rather limited, and while his brand of conservatism may have been unique in years past, the Tea Party movement grew without him as its leader. He would now face many better known Republican opponents who also espouse similar conservative ideals.
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Former Minnesota GovernorStrengths: Pawlenty has credibility as both a fiscal conservative AND as a social conservative. He passed tax cuts as governor and balanced the budget every year. He's also tried to make an effort to appeal to a broader GOP base, saying that Republicans must reach out to "Sam's Club Republicans" -- not just country club Republicans.
Weaknesses: Many pundits have said that Pawlenty's biggest problem is blandness. But name recognition could also be a challenge for the former governor. Pawlenty has also been accused of possibly being too nice to make it in a cut-throat GOP field.
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Former governor of MassachusettsStrengths: Romney's successful business background makes him an ideal candidate in still-troubled economic times. He has a successful record turning the Salt Lake Olympics around after it amased $379 billion in debt. Romney also has a strong fundraising advantage with nearly $800,000 cash on hand as well as personal wealth.
Weaknesses: President Obama's Chief of Staff Bill Daley recently joked that "ObamaCare" used to be known as "RomneyCare." The fact that Romney signed a health care bill in Massachusetts that required people to purchase health insurance (and even created a state-run health care program) is already a thorn in Romney's side. Romney also will face questions similar to ones he was forced to answer in the 2008 campaign about his Mormon faith.
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Former Pennsylvania SenatorStrengths: Santorum will bank on his conservative bona fides. His social stances play well among Iowa voters and his conservative fiscal views will help with Tea Partiers. He has also been active in early primary states to lay the groundwork for a run.
Weaknesses: He's not as well-known as some of the other top conservative candidates. His embarrassing 18-point loss in his reelection bid in 2006 has not been forgotten. And he may be too conservative for moderate voters in New Hampshire, Florida, and other key states.