Here they are: The men and woman who (for now, anyway) look like the most likely candidates to become the Republican presidential nominee in 2012. Among them are blasts from the past, up-and-comers, the founder of the House Tea Party caucus and, of course, a certain former Alaska governor. Click through to check out CBSNews.com's gallery of the top GOP contenders - and read about their strengths and weaknesses should they enter the race to face off against President Obama in his reelection campaign.
The controversial third-term representative from Minnesota has garnered plenty of press in recent months thanks in large part to her aggressive effort to tie herself to the Tea Party movement. Bachmann founded the House Tea Party caucus and also offered what she cast as a Tea Party response to the 2011 State of the Union address. Bachmann is a prolific fundraiser and has been visiting Iowa ahead of a possible run - but she is also somewhat isolated in Congress (her House leadership bid failed) and could be too far right for much of the electorate.
The Mississippi governor, in his Southern drawl, describes himself as a "fat redneck" - and he also happens to be one of the most respected strategists in his party. The head of the Republican Governors Association and a former Republican National committee chairman, Barbour has perhaps unsurpassed connections in Washington, which would help with fundraising. Unlike Bobby Jindal, the former tobacco lobbyist largely played down the impact of the Gulf oil spill.
The former Godfather's Pizza CEO and conservative talk show host sparred with Bill Clinton over health care reform in the 1990s, and his early announcement that he planned to seek the GOP nomination garnered the only African-American Republican in the field some much-needed publicity. But Cain remains a relative unknown without the infrastructure or fundraising apparatus to compete with the bigger names, and it would take a seismic shift for him to become a major player in the fight for the nomination.
The Indiana governor has generated buzz as a potential 2012 candidate in part by coming off as the anti-Obama, a self-effacing man whose charm lies in his very lack of it. He has built an image as a fiscal conservative who cuts government waste without regret, which could play well with the GOP base. His call for a "truce" on social issues like abortion, however, angered the social conservative wing of the party.
Gingrich clearly enjoys the speculation about whether he will enter the presidential sweepstakes - which is part of the reason he encourages it just about every cycle. (It also doesn't hurt his public profile and speaking fees.) The former House speaker and elder statesman in the party seems more serious this time around, however. One stumbling block might be his personal life -- he's been married three times -- which could alienate social conservatives.
Despite a poor showing in his 2008 presidential bid, the former New York City mayor says he's considering another run in 2012. His social and fiscal moderation could be a liability in the GOP primaries, but if the debate turns to national security Giuliani could get a major boost thanks to his widely lauded performance in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and tough-on-crime reputation.
The former Arkansas governor and former candidate has a hit talk show built around his amiable personality - and may now be focused more on media than politics. But Huckabee, who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses, remains popular in the party for his ability to sell a social conservative message without coming off as mean-spirited; "I'm a conservative," he says, "but I'm not mad at anybody."
When President Obama offered then-Utah Governor John Huntsman the U.S. ambassadorship to China in 2009 - and Huntsman accepted - pundits said the president had effectively sidelined a strong potential 2012 rival. (Obama 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe had called Huntsman the one potential opponent who made him "a wee bit queasy.") But Huntsman, a fluent Mandarin speaker, recently said he was giving up his job ahead of a possible challenge to Mr. Obama. A Mormon like Mitt Romney, Huntsman is seen by supporters as a pro-business consensus builder who is relatively moderate on issues like gay rights and the environment; while that moderation might help in a general election, it could complicate his path to the GOP nomination.
This former New Mexico governor seems to be hoping to take the "Ron Paul slot" and become the candidate of choice for passionate, libertarian-leaning Republicans in 2012. He supports abortion rights, gay rights and ending the war in Afghanistan. He's perhaps best known for supporting marijuana legalization. All told, his candidacy would clearly be something of a hard sell among social conservatives, but Johnson is focused on promoting himself as a fiscal conservative and champion of small government, touting his record as governor from 1995 to 2003. If both Paul and Johnson run it could split the (already small) libertarian vote and keep both men from making much of a showing.
The undisputed superstar of the right, the former vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor is a polarizing figure nationwide even as she remains popular among some GOP primary voters. She has been focused on her burgeoning media career in recent months but has also remained active in politics, deploying her powerful endorsement and weighing in on policy. Yet questions about her electability are likely to dog her should she throw her hat in the ring.
After years of seeming like an oddball in his party, the libertarian-leaning Republican is finally in fashion: the Tea Party movement has embraced his limited government philosophy (as well as Paul's son Rand, the newly-minted Kentucky GOP Senator), and ideas once seen as outside the GOP mainstream (Audit the Fed!) suddenly have traction. Still, despite the passionate following Paul attracts, his appeal seems to remain relatively limited.
The former Minnesota governor has carefully laid the groundwork for a presidential run, raising money for Republican candidates and laying out a coherent anti-Obama vision centered on a push to overturn the health care bill. But he has also had a hard time capturing the imagination of the GOP faithful, many of whom seem to view Pawlenty as an acceptable but far-from-thrilling 2012 standard-bearer.
The 2008 candidate has a lot going for him in his expected 2012 run: He looks presidential, has worked hard to establish his conservative credentials following his relative moderation as Massachusetts governor, and has laid a strong groundwork for a run. But he has liabilities, too: His Mormonism remains a potential problem, some see him as a political opportunist, and the health care bill he signed into law in Massachusetts looks an awful lot like the "ObamaCare" law so disdained on the right.
The two-term Pennsylvania senator faded from public view following his reelection drubbing four years ago, but he has kept active in conservative circles and says he is contemplating a run. The staunch social conservative has not moderated his positions - though he does seem to have learned from having become a liberal whipping boy as a result of his controversial stances on homosexuality and evolution.