The first Republican debate has been announced. The early media handicapping has begun. Anticipation in the political community is running high. By those signs, the curtain is set to rise on the 2012 GOP presidential campaign. But what about the candidates?
At this point four years ago, the race for the White House was already in high gear. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) filed his declaration of candidacy soon after the 2006 midterm elections. Barack Obama, then just a junior senator from Illinois, stirred Democratic hearts during a December trip to New Hampshire. Talented operatives spent the final months of the year juggling offers from rival campaigns in a furious bid to sign up staff.In contrast to all that, the Republicans' 2012 campaign is off to a less-hurried start.