Here we are in April 2011. It's spring. "A young man's fancy," we are told, "turns to thoughts of love." But for politicians, this is a time when aspiring candidates for president of the United States are turning to thoughts of replacing Barack Obama in the White House.
Yes, the next presidential election is not until November 2012. But any hopefuls who want to have a chance of success can't wait till election year to begin their campaigns.
They have to start far in advance. They have to float "trial balloons." They have to gain name recognition. And unfortunately, they have to raise a lot of campaign money, if possible. Some aspirants hope "political lightning will strike" to bring positive public attention. Some will be disappointed.
With first-term President Obama more or less a sure thing to be the Democratic Party nominee, the really big question now is, what Republican prospect has the greatest chance to win the GOP's presidential nomination - and then has a significant chance to defeat the incumbent?
Currently, the great American public is not showing overwhelming enthusiasm for giving Obama a second term - or for giving the White House to any of the Republicans who would like to replace him!
So while Obama and his policies are lacking in popularity, many recall the political truism: "You can't beat somebody with nobody."
The fact is, at least for now, unclear which Republican might provide a tough challenge to Obama in the 2012 election.
One of many "names mentioned" has just ruled himself out. Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi surprised many when he announced Monday that he has decided he won't run for president next year. He said he just doesn't have the "fire in the belly" that is required for a presidential candidacy.
Barbour probably realized what many prospective candidates don't: that he had scant hope for success if he did run.
A poll published last weekend in The Wall Street Journal indicated Barbour would not have been a leading contender.
It hardly found a leading contender at all!
The poll that showed Barbour with only 2 percent preference for the Republican presidential nomination showed one "leading" possibility to be former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who currently is in the public eye as a TV master of ceremonies on a musical variety and political show. Huckabee was at the head of the pack with just 16 percent.
Tying Huckabee with 16 percent was Donald Trump!
(Doesn't that alone suggest that the Republican field is still wide open, and there is no apparent "shoo-in" for nomination yet?)
Trailing Huckabee and Trump in the Republican presidential polling were:
* Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney with 13 percent.
* Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin with 10 percent.
* U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with 6 percent.
* Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich of Georgia with 6 percent.
* U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota at 4 percent.
* Former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels at 3 percent.
* Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 3 percent.
* Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania at 2 percent.
* Barbour at 2 percent.
* Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman at 1 percent.
Most of those names are hardly household words. The president is surely aware of that.
Well, it's still a long time before the next presidential primaries and the general election. But winning a presidential campaign does not happen overnight.
A clearly promising challenger to Obama hasn't appeared yet. But lots of politicians are hoping, and a lot of voters are looking. And Obama surely has his eyes open to his potential challengers, too. But he's just as surely not worrying very much - so far.