At Least 17 Republicans in 2012 Presidential Election Field

When Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told us this week that the 2012 GOP presidential field will be “wide open,” we had no idea just how many Republicans might be marching to Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada for the opening caucuses and primaries. Including Barbour, who will decide after the fall midterm elections but who is expected to run in 2012, Washington political insiders tell us that nine Republicans are almost a lock to run and another eight are considering a presidential bid.

Many former presidential campaign organizers say that now is the time to be considering a bid because by spring of next year, the list of announced candidates will be firm and those in will be divvying up staff and raising money.

The top tier of candidates includes many in the news like Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney, but some newbies have scratched their way into the category like budget-slashing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Long shots include some who’ve already made trips to Iowa, like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

“A starting place. That’s all anybody has,” said Barbour, dismissing talk of front-runners this far out of the election.

Here’s the latest list of those who want President Obama’s job.

The A-Team Nine

– Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the front-runner, largely because he was the runner-up to Sen. John McCain in 2008.

– Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has recently made a name for herself by endorsing winning Tea Party candidates.

– Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a social conservative in his second term.

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