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Republican Presidential Contenders for 2012

Republican Mitt Romney. Photo Courtesy - TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Thirteen months before the Iowa caucuses, a diverse and ambitious group of Republicans has begun jockeying for the party's presidential nomination and a chance to go head-to-head with President Barack Obama in 2012.

With early visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, political action committee fundraisers, and informal conversations with prospective strategists and staffers all underway, these would-be candidates have been subtly and not-so-subtly laying the groundwork for the campaign. Some could formally declare their candidacies this month.

The list is dominated by GOP governors and former governors, including familiar faces like Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, and newcomers to the presidential race, like Tim Pawlenty and Newt Gingrich. Everyone has their eyes on former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, who has also indicated she could get in the game.

A recent McClatchy-Marist Poll puts Romney at the front of the pack, with one in five picking him as the Republican nominee. Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008, ranks second with 16 percent. Palin and Gingrich are also close behind.

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