Who among us can contain their excitement? The GOP presidential primary season has begun!
By my count, there are 24 people who are beneficiaries of nontrivial presidential buzz: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, David Petraeus, Ron Paul, Jeb Bush, John Bolton, Bob McDonnell, Jim DeMint, Chris Christie, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Judd Gregg, Marco Rubio and Rick Perry.
With a heavy heart, I take it upon myself to winnow the field down for you.
Half of these people are almost surely not running.
Earlier this year, there was a lot of talk about Petraeus running. But then the Army general gave a lot of dull, substantive speeches in which he didn't say anything about ethanol or the Hawkeye State's divine right to hold the first-in-the-nation contest. Seems like he prefers Kandahar to Ames.
Rubio, Ryan and Jindal, respectively the incoming junior senator from Florida, the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee and the governor of Louisiana, are all wisely sitting out the presidential contest to concentrate on their to-do lists, though the three golden boys of the GOP are ripe vice presidential picks.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and the current governors of New Jersey, Virginia and Texas -- Christie, McDonnell and Perry -- probably aren't running, though they all enjoy deep reservoirs of admiration on the right, particularly Christie, whose YouTube videos are passed around like samizdat. Also, there's growing buzz that Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a fierce defender of his top-tier contender status, may not run because he's got a big new contract with Fox News in the works.
DeMint, the South Carolina senator and the Tea Party's man on the inside, has said he's not running but acts like he might be. Meanwhile, Gregg, New Hampshire's retiring senator, acts likes he's not running but hasn't ruled it out. (If he did run as a New Hampshire favorite son, it would complicate things for Romney.) Pence, the Indiana representative, definitely wants to run but now may switch to the Indiana governorship instead.
Barbour, perhaps the sharpest political operator with a natural Southern constituency in a Southern-dominated party, could be a front-runner (and a hilarious adept debate opponent for Obama), but his plans remain murky.
That leaves 11 who are probably, but not definitely, running: Romney, Gingrich, Palin, Pawlenty, Santorum, Bolton, Daniels, Cain, Johnson, Paul and Thune.