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With no major official announcements yet from the Republican field, it is easy to say the race is starting slower than the 2008 election cycle. However, looking closely around the country you can find the major Republican players massaging donors and early primary voters every weekend. Nevada has been a go-to state in recent weeks with many potential 2012 candidates making visits to Harry Reid’s back yard.

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Report from Las Vegas Review Journal:

Behind closed doors, at invitation-only dinners and in private meetings, a stealth campaign for the U.S. presidency is being waged before a single candidate has formally declared in the 2012 race.

Monday evening, for instance, a small group of Republicans will gather in a private Las Vegas home to chat with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty about his new book. He says it “tells the story of my life.” It’s a tale few Nevadans know about his blue-collar upbringing, the son of a South St. Paul truck driver who made it into the governor’s mansion.

Pawlenty and other potential Republican candidates have a lot of getting-to-know-you work to do in Nevada if they want to compete with Mitt Romney. He is the nominal front-runner in the GOP presidential sweepstakes before the contest has officially begun. The former Massachusetts governor won the party caucus here in 2008 and is aiming for a repeat performance.

“Mitt Romney is a known quantity” in Nevada and across the country, said Jennifer Duffy, an analyst with the Cook Political Report. Not so Pawlenty. “What Pawlenty’s doing is making friends. He’s putting his face on the map; that’s the main objective.”

Romney and Pawlenty are among a crop of hopefuls targeting Nevada as one of four states holding early GOP presidential caucuses in February 2012, after Iowa and New Hampshire and likely ahead of South Carolina.

Others who have been tramping through Nevada include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and radio talk show host Herman Cain.

Palin, the 2008 vice presidential running mate to U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has visited Nevada often. She spoke in January at the Reno convention of Safari Club International, a gun-rights group of big game hunters.

One can only assume that in the months of March and April, we might see some official announcements given the upcoming scheduled debates in May.

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Nate Ashworth is the Founder and Senior Editor of Election Central. He's been blogging elections and politics for almost a decade. He started covering the 2008 Presidential Election which turned into a full-time political blog in 2012 and 2016.

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