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2012 already? GOP wannabes jockeying early/Govt: Medicare paid $47 billion in suspect claims

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Sarah Palin is embarking on a book tour. Tim Pawlenty is building a national political operation. Mitt Romney is weighing in on the recession. They're all jockeying for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination — even if they won't say so. Make no mistake: At least a half-dozen Republicans are in the early stages of campaigning for the chance to challenge President Barack Obama in his expected re-election race. Ultimately, some may decide against running. But, at this point, they're taking steps to position themselves for the GOP nomination fight — and that means courting conservatives critical in primaries, proving they can take on a popular incumbent president and painting a vision for a wayward GOP. And, of course, gauging their relative strength, visiting early primary states and refusing to rule out official bids. "It's way too soon" to talk 2012, former New York Gov. George Pataki demurred last week, sounding like a stream of other Republicans trekking through Iowa, while he spoke at a GOP fundraiser for the 2010 midterm election season.

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