In U.S. presidential politics, some of the Republicans who would like to challenge President Barack Obama in next year’s election are starting to speak out forcefully against some of the president’s policies, including foreign policy issues.
Although it is very early in the U.S. presidential election campaign cycle, several Republicans have already taken steps toward running for the White House and several more are expected to do so in the weeks ahead.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum has set up an exploratory campaign committee and has been traveling to early presidential contest states like Iowa and New Hampshire to gauge interest in a White House bid.
Santorum lashed out at President Obama’s foreign policy in a speech in Washington this week that criticized the administration for its handling of Libya, Iran and Venezuela.
Like many conservatives, Santorum likes to promote the theme of "American Exceptionalism," which holds that the United States has special virtues as a nation and should exercise a unique leadership role in world affairs. "A president who doesn’t understand the greatness of America and the American experiment cannot confidently advance her interests. If he will not or cannot lead, who around the world will follow?" said Santorum.
Another Republican who is moving toward a presidential bid is Congressman Ron Paul of Texas. Paul ran four years ago in the Republican primaries and also ran as the Libertarian Party candidate in 1988.
Paul says if he decides to run, he will focus on reducing the size of the central government and its influence on the lives of Americans. Paul has broken with many Republicans in his opposition to U.S. involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "It is the excessive spending, the entitlement system, the foreign policy as well as the monetary system," said Paul.
In addition to Santorum and Paul, other Republicans who are expected to formalize their White House intentions soon include former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann.
On the other hand, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour considered making a run but recently decided against it.
Most of the contenders who are testing the presidential waters have been visiting early contest states like Iowa, which kicks off the presidential nominating process next February.
Associated Press correspondent Mike Glover has covered numerous presidential caucuses in Iowa. Glover was a recent guest on the CSPAN public affairs television network and says time is running short for those interested in running in 2012.
"We are 10 months from the Iowa caucuses; we have got field organizations in place. If you are going to start campaigning in Iowa, you better be here doing it now,” said Glover. “There is not a lot of time for somebody to leap in at the last minute except for some huge name like Sarah Palin."
So far, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has shown little interest in joining the Republican race. But that is not the case for another celebrity figure, New York businessman Donald Trump.
Trump visited New Hampshire this past week and soared in several public opinion polls in large part because he questioned whether President Obama had been born in the United States.
The president released his original birth certificate from his home state of Hawaii this week in an effort to put an end to the controversy.
Despite the early campaign activity, some recent polls suggest Republicans are not excited about the small but growing field of potential White House contenders.
Iowa political expert Mike Glover says grassroots Republicans are eager to find someone who they believe would be able to defeat President Obama next year, but many believe the current crop of likely candidates is not up to the task. "It is difficult for a lot of Republicans to see them actually beating Barack Obama in a general election and I think Republicans are craving somebody who might have the gravitas, the money and the name ID (identification), whatever it takes, to actually win a general election matchup with Barack Obama," explained Glover. "Donald Trump, some people think, may bring that kind of gravitas to the table."
Public opinion polls suggest there is no frontrunner for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination at this early stage of the process. Recent surveys show Mitt Romney, Donald Trump and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee as favorites for the Republican nomination, with Palin and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich further back.
Like Palin, Huckabee has so far shown little interest in joining the race.