After a sluggishstart, Republican presidential campaigns are beginning to get into gear as the 2012 election cycle ramps up.
Last month, former Massachusetts Governor and 2008 presidential primary contender Mitt Romney announced that he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, which allows him to raise money for his all-but-certain 2012 campaign.
The same week, perhaps attesting to Romney’s perceived strength as a general election candidate, a number of Democratic groups mounted a “Thank you, Mitt,” campaign to mark the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts healthcare reform package signed by Romney as governor. The Massachusetts package, which included an individual mandate to obtain health insurance, is seen as a model for President Obama’s healthcare reform law, which is anathema to many Republicans.
Joining Romney as communications director is Gail Gitcho, who was a press secretary on Romney’s 2008 campaign and had been working in the office of Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA). Influential Republican Florida Rep. Connie Mack endorsed Romney shortly after the announcement, ahead of a planned visit to Florida.
Romney’s announcement was followed by that of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who told Fox News a few days later that he was forming his own presidential exploratory committee. Of the many other Republicans who have flirted with a 2012 presidential run, only a few have made it even semi-official. In addition to Romney and Santorum, exploratory committees have been launched by former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty as well as several long-shot candidates such as former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain.
Last month, Pawlenty appeared to go beyond mere exploration when he told CNN’s Piers Morgan, “I’m running for president.” However, Pawlenty later walked back the comment, stating that he had not formally launched his presidential campaign.
By this point in 2007, most of the major presidential candidates, including Barack Obama, John McCain, and Hillary Clinton, had formally launched their campaigns.