So here is my cut-out-and-keep guide to the likely candidates. It is long and it is meant to be exhaustive. Still, I am prepared to be surprised by a candidate emerging who no-one has thought about. Twenty months ago, I had Governors Huntsman and Sanford at the top of my private list. The first was sent to China as ambassador and the second lost his heart and reputation in Argentina.
Palin is in the enviable position of having easily the highest profile of any candidate, as well as being seen as something of an outsider, a dark horse. She says she is talking to her family about running. Those who see her as a money-making superstar ignore the fact that nearly everything she does is political. Some think putting her money where her mouth is might blow her reputation. But increasingly, Washington understands she is not a joke, and will run.
Democrats dream of her winning, as they believe she would never become president. Many Republicans agree.
She has completely avoided what a "sensible" candidate would have done: counter those negatives. No foreign policy initiative, no sense of listening and learning, instead she has lived up to her own image of a pit bull with lipstick.
Her fans will vote in droves, but a word of caution: Tea Party supporters may love her, but by no means do they all think she is ready to be president.
There is no doubt that Mitt Romney is the front runner, has a big organisation up and running, is still ahead in opinion polls and has raised huge amounts of money. Despite that, few people I've spoken to believe he's the one.
The former Massachusetts governor is certainly too moderate for the current Tea Party-enthused base. He introduced health care in his state not dissimilar to Obama's. Even if he can overcome that problem I tend to think it's a bit unexciting going with the guy who didn't win the nomination last time. Republicans don't necessarily agree though - Richard Nixon, Ronald Regan, George H W Bush and John McCain all had unsuccessful stabs at the presidency before winning their party's nomination.
The former Arkansas governor, would-be rock star, ordained Baptist minister and Fox News political commentator came third in the popular vote in 2008, but could do better this time around. At the moment he feels low on energy and excitement. His economic voting record goes down badly with hard line Tea Partiers, although he is seen by most as pretty conservative. He is apparently rather sour that many don't talk about him. "I just don't understand how it is that a person can read these polls day after day and the narrative is constantly everybody but me. Whether I do it or not, the fact is that if one looks at the overall body of information that's available, nobody would be in a better position to take it all the way to November."
The former speaker of the House is not officially a retread: he's never run for president even though he has flirted with the idea several times. In the 1990s, he was just about the highest profile speaker of the house ever, as well as de facto Republican leader, Bob Dole not withstanding. But his time in the Speaker's chair didn't end so well. A tremendous intellect, a brilliant strategist and so-so organiser, he's made plenty of enemies. His crude attacks on Obama are seen by many as beneath the intellect of a history PhD. His messy divorce was long ago but wouldn't escape scrutiny in a campaign.
THE ONES TO WATCH
The two-term Governor of Minnesota has been gearing up for a run for over a year, but won't announce until March. An early McCain backer and committed Christian, he was thought to be a likely VP pick before losing out to Palin. He calls himself (like Palin) a common sense conservative, but can appeal both to social conservatives and moderates. He promised to balance the budget and keep taxes down in Minnesota. The right accuses him of putting tax up instead. The left abhor his social conservatism. He was re-elected governor in 2006 by a very slim margin and it's not clear he can inspire an impassioned conservative following.
The Mississippi governor has long had a reputation for competence, not least in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, but that is developing into respect. He's deeply plugged into the Republican machine. His jokes and southern drawl give him a folksy appeal. But the contrast with Obama might not be so great: he looks and sounds like a southern sheriff from the 50s. The recent furore and subsequent groveling when he appeared to sound rather laid-back about white supremacists in the 1960s shows the sort of scrutiny he would be under.
The South Dakota senator is a favourite both of Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and John McCain. He will almost certainly run. He's has a largely conservative voting record, but did vote for the economic bail-out, which goes down badly with the Tea Party. He is not a ranter, and looks like a president (detractors say that is the only reason he is being considered). A hot tip.
Nicknamed "the blade" by George W Bush, the Bush administration budget director is now governor of Indiana. He's the man for Republicans who are looking for an economically literate, fiscal conservative who has a strong national and state track record. But he's not the most dynamic of speakers and shows little interest in the agenda that appeals to social conservatives. Some argue that seriousness, not bombast is exactly what the Republicans need. Another hot tip.
TEA PARTY FAVOURITES
This former Pennsylvania senator is a confrontational social conservative with strong views against homosexuality, but not a strong record on fiscal conservatism. A scandal about tax breaks for his children's education in the past would be revived. He says he is seriously considering a run and sees himself as "the Tea Party candidate".
The congressman from Indiana is waiting on the Lord and the new year. He says he is praying about a decision to run and will announce what he will do in January. He's a Christian conservative with a strong economic conservative record. He came top in a straw poll of favourite candidates at an influential gathering of conservatives. But like many others on this list, he is unknown to much of America and not particularly charismatic.
Tea Party darling, and victor of the Florida senate race, in his acceptance speech he said he didn't know about the American dream from books, but from his own life. The son of working class Cuban immigrants he's a man to watch. It is, of course, not quite unprecedented, for a senator to make a presidential run just two years after his election, but the Obama example might harm rather than help. He hasn't said what he will do, but is raising money. Perhaps a better VP pick (if he's prepared to give up his hard-fought Senate seat). This time.
RULED OUT - BY THEMSELVES
The governor of New Jersey beat an incumbent Democrat in 2009, signaling the start of the Republican surge. Christened Governor "Wrecking Ball" by a local paper, he has taken an axe to spending and made himself a hero to conservatives far beyond the state. A "fat man" ad was made about him, and he isn't the traditional airbrushed good-looker. He's won admirers in the Tea Party movement, though he's not really one of them. He's more of a traditional Republican. He is very much an up-and-comer, but he says it's too soon. "Short of suicide, I don't really know what I'd have to do to convince you people that I'm not running," he told eager reporters earlier this year.
The governor of Texas has just been elected as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association and has certainly been touting himself around. But he says he won't go for it. If he did he's an outsider with the right credentials, his strong suit is fiscal conservatism (he turned down the stimulus money for Texas) but he's also socially conservative: anti gay marriage, anti abortion and pro teaching of creationism.
The Louisiana governor had a "good" oil spill, looking both concerned and very active as he tackled its effects. His social and economic conservatism go down well with the base, and his background - the son of Indian immigrants - promotes a new Republican image. There's a Jindal for President website (many high profile candidates register the names to prevent opponents from launching attack sites) but he says he's not running: "No ifs, no buts."
W's younger, perhaps brighter, brother and former governor of Florida has said he won't run. Anyway, is the world ready for the third President Bush? Some centrist Republicans certainly are. Fluent in Spanish and married to a Colombian who was born and brought up in Mexico, he would certainly help with the Hispanic vote which may be deciding factor in 2012.
Read more about Mark Mardell's predictions for the big news of 2011 - and predictions from other BBC correspondents - here.