To do so, one of these candidates has to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. What follows is a cheat sheet of the strengths and weaknesses of each of the GOP presidential candidates and a quick assessment of where they stand now.
As the race develops, we will update this slideshow to keep it fresh.
Upside: Proven and skilled executive, a prodigious fund-raiser and a veteran of the presidential campaign trail (he ran in 2008). He also looks the part.
Downside: He's a Mormon, he was the driving force behind Romneycare (the forerunner to President Obama's national health care insurance plan, which is wildly unpopular with GOP primary voters) and he's from Massachusetts (which is sort of like being from China as far as GOP primary voters are concerned).
Present Position: Top-tier candidate, strong in New Hampshire, not strong in Iowa or in the South.
What He Must Do: Win New Hampshire convincingly.
Downside: Reputation as a lightweight.
President Position: Second tier candidate, trying to get himself bumped up to first class.
What He Must Do: Win Iowa or run 'surprisingly well' there.
Upside: Strong base of support among primary voters and caucus attenders, experience (from 2008) at the national campaign level, good fund-raiser, star power.
Downside: Reputation as a lightweight, weak organisation, second-tier staff, not smart enough.
Present Position: Top tier candidate, but losing altitude.
What She Must Do: Debate well. Beat Huckabee in Iowa.
Upside: Smarts, fluency in policy matters, experience, fund-raising ability.
Downside: Personal 'issues,' lack of discipline, never stops talking, yesterday's news.
Present Position: Trying to get into the first tier.
What He Must Do: Win Iowa or, if he skips the first two primaries, win South Carolina.
Upside: Strong Southern base, strong Iowa base, presidential campaign experience, shrewdness.
Downside: Undisciplined at times, weak fund-raiser, second-tier organisation, mixed messaging.
Present Position: Front-runner!
What He Must Do: Win Iowa. Win South Carolina. Does both, he's the nominee.
Upside: Smart, serious, capable executive, campaign experience, fund-raising ability, ability to attract strong staff, strong message.
Downside: Looks like the President's barber, message depressing, cross-wise with social conservatives, unclear where he stands on national security issues.
Present Position: Long-shot candidate, beloved by policy and government types.
What He Must Do: Win Iowa.
Upside: Effective governor, wealth of campaign experience, great fund-raiser, strong base among his GOP gubernatorial colleagues, impossible to dislike.
Downside: Former lobbyist, no real message, not one original thought on national security issues, Iowa and New Hampshire not his kind of states.
Present Position: Trying to move into the first tier.
What He Must Do: Somehow stay alive through Iowa and New Hampshire.
Upside: Able former Utah governor, US Ambassador to China, enormously wealthy, smart, looks the part.
Downside: Moderate, Mormon, Obama appointee, no base, no message (yet).
Present Position: No chance.
What He Must Do: Win Iowa or finish a strong second there.
Upside: Astonishing fund-raiser. Popular with Tea Party social conservatives. War horse (works hard).
Downside: Not smart enough, no national experience, no organisation, disliked by colleagues, boiler-plate message.
Present Position: Third tier.
What She Must Do: Beat Palin somewhere. If Palin doesn't run, beat Huckabee somewhere.
Upside: Social conservative base, disciplined, some national experience, willingness to attack.
Downside: Campaign narrowly focused on social issues, no original policy ideas, weak organisation, lack of presidential campaign experience, not an Iowa kind of guy.
Present Position: Second tier. Stuck there.
What He Must Do: Beat all the other 'social conservative' candidates in Iowa.
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