The 2012 election was all the news in 2011, as a wide pool of Republican candidates leaped out of the gates in their bid to unseat President Barack Obama. Galvanized by their heady victories in the 2010 mid-term elections, a fired-up GOP base buoyed the rise of Tea Party-friendly candidates like Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Governor Rick Perry, as well as more quixotic campaigns, like those of pizza magnate Herman Cain. So far, however, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has remained the (albeit shaky) odds-on favorite. A number of presumptive rivals have gone toe-to-toe with him at times Bachmann, Perry and Cain were all at one point cast as likely usurpers but the luster of each of their stars has dimmed almost as quickly as it brightened, as candidates succumbed to debate gaffes, campaign woes and (in the case of Cain) persistent allegations of sexual misconduct. But with Romney liked but not loved among the GOP's most faithful, he remains open to dark horse challengers: late in 2011 former House speaker Newt Gingrich made it a two-man race once again, despite his own checkered past.
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