GOP's presidential hopefuls not diving into race

NEW YORK - They're off and running! Sort of.

2011 has only just begun, but Campaign 2012 is already starting. A number of Republicans are considering a challenge to President Obama, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He's not ready to throw his hat in the ring, but he did stick his toe in the water Thursday, CBS News correspondent Jeff Greenfield reports.

They're speaking, they're meeting, they're writing books, but what the likely Republican contenders haven't done is to take any actual step toward launching a presidential campaign.

Last month, Gingrich sure looked like a candidate, entering a big conservative meeting triumphantly to the theme of "Rocky." But on Thursday, back home in Georgia, he announced the launch of a website to help him decide if he should run.

Gingrich inches closer to presidential bid
Newt Gingrich: The reintroduction begins

"We're establishing a website to look at this more seriously, to methodically lay out a framework," Gingrich said.

2012 Contenders: Strengths and Weaknesses
Newt Gingrich's life in pictures

And he's hardly alone. In fact, not one serious candidate has launched an exploratory campaign committee, much less announced for president.

Four years ago, by contrast, all three of the major Democrats had thrown their hats into the ring, and the major Republicans had launched their committees. So what's going on?

"Last time, you had a lot of people in for an extended period of time, and that didn't really accrue any particular advantage," said David Winston, a CBS News analyst and longtime Republican strategist.

In fact, many of the possible contenders -- such as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney -- are already well known and all ran national campaigns. Gingrich has been a national figure for two decades.

There are personal considerations as well. Huckabee is making real money for the first time in his life, with a Fox News TV show and speeches. So is Palin. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels is concerned about the impact on his family.

Despite huge Republican gains last fall and a Democratic incumbent with mediocre job approval, Mr. Obama is seen as a formidable political figure who will be difficult to defeat.

"President Obama at worst is even or in many cases is leading by as many as 10 points," Winston said.

One factor that will eventually tempt many to announce: For the first time in decades, there's no clear Republican frontrunner. Nobody can say who the favorite is, and in politics, nobody's usually right.