It's safe to say the GOP race started off slow, ripples in the water from names both known and not. Half the candidates did not even bother showing up for the first debate and yet here we are, on the day of the New Hampshire primary and the field is still as deep as it is diverse, with multiple candidates polling in double digits and the frontrunner changing on a whim.
We like to keep a close eye on these things and always have. We're not interested in telling you what to do and who to vote for but we are interested in you voting and being informed while you do so. With that, we give you your 2012 Republican nominees.
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan.
Education: Undergrad at BYU, Juris Doctor/Master of Business Administration from Harvard.
Experience: Former governor of Massachusetts, GOP presidential candidate 2008.
How He Wins: Between his moderate views and a general uneasiness about his Mormon background, Romney will not be able to dig as deeply into the established GOP base as others might. But strong name recognition, backed by a seasoned campaign team and a proven fundraising network could garner Romney support outside the traditional GOP hunting ground and leave his opponents fighting over scraps.
How He Loses: The Massachusetts health care reform was Romney's flagship as governor and his opponents have been eager to draw similarities to "Obamacare," the new federal program the Republicans love to hate. His work with Bain Capital, once a proud talking point, has also become a liability after opponents pointed out the mass layoffs the company handed out under Romney. While his religion has become something of a political minefield for his challengers, it may loom large for primary voters who are leery of Romney's mass appeal in a general election.
Birthplace: Paint Creek, Texas.
Education: Undergrad from Texas A&M.
Experience: Three-term governor of Texas, Chairman of the Republican Governor's Association.
How He Wins: Apathetic polls swung hugely in Perry's favor when he announced his candidacy, then wavered almost as quickly after a series of disappointing debate performances. Nevertheless, the three-time governor's experience speaks for itself and his track record on key campaign issues, like job creation, is sound. He's got a good grip on a die-hard Republican base but his challenge will be to siphon votes away from lesser candidates to make a run at Romney.
How He Loses: No one survives 25 years in the political limelight without hiding a few skeletons in their closet; be it the family cabin in the woods dubbed "Niggerhead," or the controversial HPV vaccination for teenage girls in Texas, opponents will sling whatever mud they can to hurt the seasoned Perry. His frequent stumbling on national television has done nothing to convince voters of his abilities and his unwavering, hardline approach might not sit well with many Americans looking for Washington to turn the page on partisan politics.
Birthplace: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Religion: Roman Catholic.
Education: Undergrad at Emory University, Master of Arts and Doctorate from Tulane University.
Experience: Former congressmen in Georgia, former Speaker of the House.
How He Wins: Gingrich is an intellectual heavyweight and political powerhouse. He has not always seen eye to eye with his party, but his name is still good in most circles. His experience and proven ability to play politics on the national level combined with widespread support could make him a dark horse for the nomination.
How He Loses: Gingrich is a polarizing political figure; his volatile run as Speaker ended with his resignation and a decree that he would "not preside over cannibals." His voting record routinely breaks with party lines and in a word long considered taboo in Republican company, he's a bit of a rogue. His independent streak, while being his biggest asset, may also be his biggest hindrance, as the GOP does not want any surprises going up against a battered incumbent president.