Nucleus Of 2012 GOP Presidential Field Likely Set

Other’s may enter, but the nucleus of the 2012 GOP presidential field is most likely set.

High-level Republican leaders tell POLITICO that they now believe the top tier of the presidential field is set, and that no major donors or operatives will remain on the sidelines hoping a dream candidate will make a last-minute entry.

The waiting is over,” said Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and counselor to President George W. Bush. “Things are going to accelerate pretty quickly now.”

The energy in the party, of course, is currently in the tea-party and social conservative wings—there’s support in those quarters for Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who is increasingly looking like a candidate, and Sarah Palin, whose plans are a mystery.

But the GOP establishment is now convinced that Mitt Romney is the front-runner, and that Tim Pawlenty and Jon Huntsman have a narrow window to determine who will become the stronger alternative – the anti-Mitt in the GOP field.

“It’s possible someone may get in later on,” Gillespie said, “but Republican activists, officials and donors are going to begin picking a horse from the current field. We have a field that will produce a nominee capable of beating Obama next November.”

Read more from Mike Allen and Molly Ball at Politico

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