By this stage of the 2008 presidential race, a signifcant number of Republican and Democratic candidates had already established exploratory committees to prepare a run at their party's nomination. This time around, serious GOP hopefuls seem content to let someone else make the first move — leaving no clear favorite for the 2012 race. So far, only fringe candidate Hermain Cain has declared his intention to run, and much of the presidential news thus far has come from seemingly likely contenders who say they'll say they'll sit the election out. With the caveat that presidential election history is full of such naysayers (President Obama included), here's a list of who's opted out — and why:
1. Mike Pence
Over the past year, Pence, a six-term Indiana congressman, has developed a loyal following among influential conservatives like former house majority leader Dick Armey. They admire Pence him for his rock-solid conservatism, impressive campaigning skills, and, perhaps most importantly, because "he lacks the flaws of the other candidates currently in the presidential mix."
The denial: The congressman had set a late-January deadline to decide whether he would seek national office. Last Tuesday, in a letter to supporters, he said that "In the choice between seeking national office and serving Indiana in some capacity, we choose Indiana." Observers took that as an all-but-certain sign that he would run for governor of his home state instead of mounting a presidential campaign.
2. Chris Christie
The Republican governor has been mentioned — repeatedly — as a 2012 presidential candidate since the typically blue state of New Jersey elected him this November. His YouTube videos, especially, have made him a popular figure in the GOP.
The denial: "I don't feel like I'm ready to be president," Christie told reporters on Nov. 3. "I don't want to run for president. I don't have the fire in the belly to run for president. But, yet, everyone seems to think that I've left the door open a little bit.... Short of suicide, I don't really know what I'd have to do to convince you people that I'm not running." For extra clarity, he added: "I've said I don't want to. I'm not going to. There is zero chance I will."
3. Michael Bloomberg
A rumored 2008 bid never materialized, but many thought Michael Bloomberg's controversial third term as New York City's mayor was merely a precursor to a 2012 presidential run. Last week, he delivered a stump-speech-flavored address in which he viciously criticized Democrats and Republicans alike — and ginned up more speculation about his future intentions.
The denial: "No way, no how," said Bloomberg when asked if he would run for president on NBC's "Meet the Press." "I'm not looking at the possibility of running. I've got a great job, and I'm gonna stay with it."
4. Jeb Bush
An influential block of Republicans sees the former Florida governor as "the complete — and perhaps only — package of policy and political know-how among potential Republican candidates," says The Post's Cillizza. But he says he's not interested, and his brother, former President George W. Bush, insists that, despite his urging, Jeb "has made it clear he is not running in 2012."
The denial: "I really have to stay focused on this goal of achieving some financial independence, financial security for my family," Jeb Bush told CNN's Candy Crowley on Nov. 14. Asked if he would run in 2016, Bush said, "You never say never about anything."
5. Bobby Jindal
The Louisiana governor is a rising star in the GOP, and he's touring the country to promote his book, Leadership and Crisis. But he says his focus is on running Louisiana, and for reelection to a second term in 2012.
The denial: "I'm not being coy at all. I'm not running for president in 2012. Period. No ifs, ands or buts, no caveats," Jindal told The Associated Press on Nov. 15. "We have made great progress in Louisiana, but we've got a lot more work to do."
6. Rick Perry
After winning his third term, the Texas governor has "leapt onto the national stage," say Stephanie Simon and Ana Campoy in The Wall Street Journal. And while he says his tour and appearances with A-list Republicans is just about promoting his new book, Fed Up!, "it's hard to find folks who believe him." Adds veteran GOP strategist Royal Masset: "I have zero doubt he's running for president — and has been running for president for the last three years."
The denial: "I am not running for the presidency of the United States," Perry told NBC's Meredith Vieira on Nov. 4. Even if Republicans said, "We need you in 2012?" Vieira pressed. "I don't see that scenario — at all," Perry responded. He's said he wants to pursue his conservative policies without worrying about a national audience.
7. Howard Dean
Republicans aren't the only ones talking about 2012. One of the most-talked-about potential Democratic challengers to President Obama is 2004 contender Howard Dean. The rumors, perhaps notably, were started by a Wall Street Journal columnist.
The denial: The rumors are "absolutely not true. [Dean] supports President Obama in 2012 and he has repeatedly said so publicly," Dean spokeswoman Karen Finney said on Nov. 4. "He is absolutely, categorically not running in 2012."
8. Hillary Clinton
Inevitably, the woman who narrowly lost the 2008 Democratic nod to Obama is also mentioned as a challenger, and a September Gallup poll found that a third of Democrats would support her. But Clinton insists she's perfectly happy in her current job as America's top diplomat.
The denial: "I'm very pleased to be doing what I'm doing as Secretary of State," Clinton told New Zealand journalists on Nov. 5. America "should be" ready for a female president, she said, but when a reporter asked if she had ruled out running in 2012, Clinton said, "Oh yes, yes."
This article was originally published on November 17, and last updated on January 31.
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