Potential 2012 GOP Hopefuls Step Up their Profiles

Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour and Tim Pawlenty are all potential 2012 GOP presidential candidates.
Mitch Daniels, Haley Barbour,  Tim Pawlenty
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels are all considered prospective 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

There's a long list of possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates, but it appears they're all waiting for someone else to take the first plunge into the race. In the meantime, the prospective presidential hopefuls are bolstering their Republican credentials with a series of critical events.

While former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin often steals the headlines, plenty of other potential presidential candidates are ready to step up their profiles.

A few potential candidates, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, will give speeches at the House Republican retreat this weekend, the Hill reports. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are also speaking. Both McDonnell and Perry have, to a lesser degree, generated some presidential speculation, though Perry's chances of a presidential bid have diminished since he became the new head of the Republican Governors Association.

At this year's GOP retreat, the party has apparently this year opted to listen to their own potential executive leaders, rather than letting last year's events repeat themselves. At last year's House GOP retreat, President Obama stole the show, challenging Republicans to "end the political steel cage match." This year's event will reportedly focus "on the House Republican pledge to the American people for more jobs and less government spending."

Barbour's appearance at the retreat will follow his State of the State address, which he delivered last night. In the highly-anticipated speech, Barbour opted in large part to address a national audience, according to analysis from Mississippi newspaper the Clarion-Ledger, in spite of his state's many pressing problems. Along with touting his record as governor, Barbour used his speech to criticize the Obama administration's policies on issues like health care and energy.

Barbour also voiced his support for the construction of a civil rights museum in Jackson, taking the opportunity to repair the recent hit his reputation took after he gave praise to a segregationist group.

"The civil rights struggle is an important part of our history, and millions of people are interested in learning more about it," Barbour said.

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, another prospective 2012 candidate, also gave his State of the State address last night. In contrast to Barbour's speech, Daniels focused on state meat-and-potato issues, according to the Indianapolis Star's Matthew Tully, rather than addressing a national audience. However, Tully said Daniels' in-depth remarks on government efficiency, fiscal restraint and education reform gave insight into the type of presidential candidate he could be.

Daniels has said he will not make a decision about a presidential bid until after the state's legislative session ends in April.

The governor will also be a guest at next month's Conservative Political Action Conference, a high-profile annual convention in Washington. The organizers of CPAC have, in fact, taken some heat from social conservatives for inviting Daniels, since last year Daniels called for a "truce" on social issues like abortion while the nation focuses on rebuilding the economy.

Barbour, Gingrich and Perry are also attending CPAC, as are prospective presidential candidates Sen. John Thune, Rep. Ron Paul and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Pawlenty is currently heavily promoting his new memoir "Courage to Stand," which gives the little-known governor an opportunity to introduce himself to a national audience. It also gives him a chance to bolster his "blue collar" credentials with a portion of the Republican base that may currently favor Palin -- a potential competitor Pawlenty said he isn't "afraid" of.

The former governor recently sat down for an interview with CBS News anchor Katie Couric, a portion of which aired on the CBS Evening News on Tuesday. In a discussion about the currently harsh tone of political discourse, Pawlenty said, "You can express yourself firmly and passionately and with conviction. But you don't need to do it in a way that demeans others." (Watch a clip of the interview at left.)

Pawlenty's book tour officially starts on Thursday, kicking off with an appearance in Washington and continuing with stops in Florida, Texas and then early-caucus state New Hampshire. After that, he'll travel to the critical, early presidential nominating state of Iowa. Gingrich will also make an appearance in Iowa this month.

Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.