The only openly gay Republican exploring a presidential bid is fighting to be included in an upcoming candidates forum.
GOP Presidential Primary
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) has ruled out making a bid for the White House next year. With a potential primary challenge looming, he says his focus will be on returning to the Senate.
Asked by Nashville radio host Steve Gill if a potential campaign for the GOP presidential nomination was in his "thought process for 2012 or beyond," Corker was firm.
"It absolutely isn't," he said Thursday, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
"Look, I really feel like, you know, I’m making a difference in the Senate. I spend so much time trying to understand the issues. I feel like I've become a thought leader in many ways. I’m going to work hard in our state over the next couple of years to try to be reelected."
Corker is one of 10 Senate Republicans up for reelection in 2012.
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) knew her upcoming trip to Iowa would create speculation she was edging toward a presidential run.
Bachmann will be the keynote speaker at an Iowans for Tax Relief PAC fundraiser Jan. 21 in Des Moines. News of her trip ignited speculation she was testing the waters for a presidential bid by visiting the first state to hold a nominating contest in 2012.
Bachmann didn't seem surprised by the reaction.
"I'm headed to Iowa," she told The Ballot Box. "I think that's why" there's the speculation.
Her staff wouldn't rule out the possibility.
"Nothing is off the table," Bachmann chief of staff Andy Parrish told ABC News. "The congresswoman is excited about her first trip to Iowa this year."
Bachmann, who founded the House Tea Party Caucus, finished the year with close to $2 million in her campaign coffers after raising some $13 million on her way to winning a third term in 2010. That has prompted speculation she might challenge Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).
But any bid for statewide office in Democratic-leaning Minnesota would be risky because Bachmann has based her career on courting controversy and staking out staunchly conservative positions.
Whether or not she mounts a campaign for the GOP presidential nod, Indiana-based Republican strategist Kurt Luidhardt said it's beneficial for Bachmann to raise her national profile.
"People think she can run. Not every member of Congress is having that same kind of attention," Luidhardt said.
--Updated at 5:50 p.m.
While other conservatives often lament the crop of 2012 prospects, Jim DeMint's been withholding judgment.
Florida Republicans are considering moving their presidential primary to avoid being penalized at the party's national convention.
The nascent proposal would see the 2012 primary moved to April, with a non-binding straw poll and debate held in January instead.
"It's good for the state, good for the party and will give a real boost to the candidates," state Sen. John Thrasher (R) told the St. Petersburg Times.
Part of the concern for Florida Republicans is that under national party rules, any state with a January primary like Florida's would lose half its delegates at the convention. The GOP 2012 convention will be held in Tampa.
Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) told the paper that such penalties won't matter because the vote at the convention will be symbolic.
"What's important is that Florida should have a real voice," he said.
Democrats, meanwhile, aren't particularly engaged on the issue of the 2012 primary date because President Obama isn't expected to face a challenge.
Both parties have sought to discourage states from moving their primaries into January, when Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina hold their contests.
Outgoing Missouri Sen. Kit Bond (R) considers President Obama the worst of five presidents he's served with.
"He came in promising to make it more open and less partisan, and it's been totally partisan and totally non-transparent," said Bond, who claimed his last two years in the Senate had been the most partisan of his four-term career.
"It's because the Republicans were absolutely shut out," he said. "We had better solutions for all the problems the country was facing, but we were not able to offer those."
He continued, "I hope he [Obama] will follow Bill Clinton, who found after his first two years in office there was a major takeover of the House and Senate by Republicans, and he started working with us. The United States is a center-right country, and President Obama has been governing from the hard left."
Bond gave Obama "a bad C" grade for his first two years in office.
As to the other presidents Bond served with, he gave Ronald Reagan an A, George H.W. Bush a B, Bill Clinton a B-plus and George W. Bush an A-minus.
Turning to 2012, Bond said he wasn't enthusiastic about a potential 2012 White House under Sarah Palin.
"I have reservations about anyone who quits as governor halfway through the term," he told the Kansas City Star in an interview.
Bond instead named GOP Govs. Haley Barbour (Miss.) and Mitch Daniels (Ind.), as well as South Dakota Sen. John Thune, as potential nominees. "Those are people I think might be good."
Bond said he plans to join a law firm, which he wouldn't name, when he leaves the Senate in January.
Rick Santorum will make his eighth trip to Iowa next week as the former Pennsylvania senator continues testing the waters for a presidential bid.
Santorum will be in the Quad Cities Dec. 15-16 for meetings. He'll also address members of the Quad City Tea Party at an event in Bettendorf, Iowa, that's open to the media.
Santorum recently indicated he was waiting on Sarah Palin before deciding to enter the 2012 GOP presidential primary field. "If she decides to get into the race, she will take a lot of air out of the room, that's for sure," Santorum told The Associated Press.
One year ago, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and MSNBC host Joe Scarborough had one of the most fascinating conversations you probably never heard.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (R) hinted he's waiting on Sarah Palin before deciding whether to announce a run for president.
"If she decides to get into the race, she will take a lot of air out of the room, that's for sure," Santorum said Monday during a swing through South Carolina.
He called the former Alaska governor a "larger-than-life figure," but said that could cause her problems when campaigning in small, early primary states such as South Carolina and Iowa.
"She is such a media star, I would think it's hard for her to have normal interactions" with voters, he said. "I have my own challenges and that's getting the crowd. Her problem isn't getting the crowd, it's sort of having more real time with people. I get plenty of real time and that lower profile works for me in a way that I can go do things that are just going to be harder for her."
Santorum added, "It's not that she can't do it, everybody has their own challenges."
Should Santorum and Palin both decide to run for the GOP 2012 presidential nomination, they would likely be courting the same conservative primary voters.
In the mean time, Santorum continues to travel widely.
"I'm getting here. I'm getting feelers on whether people think that what I'm saying, what I'm thinking, what I'm doing and what I've done is something they could get behind and be supportive of," he told The Associated Press in Charleston during his seventh trip to the state.
He's not confining himself to early primary states. Santorum will be at an educational conference in St. Louis in January hosted by the Constitutional Coalition.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) will be in Boston on Saturday to deliver a speech about the role of religion in the "public square," according to a news release.
Santorum's remarks are meant to be a rebuttal of the late President John F. Kennedy's speech a half century ago about the role his Catholic faith played in his policy decisions.
"I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute," Kennedy said during his famous address to a group of Protestant ministers at a Houston hotel in September 1960.
Many observers believe Santorum is testing the waters for a 2012 presidential run.
Here's a video of Kennedy's speech.