[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/01/art.gopers.cnn.jpg caption="Who is on deck to lead the Republican Party?"](CNN) - It's spring training, when hope springs eternal for the coming season. That's true for baseball players and for political players.
The scouts are out there, eyeballing hot prospects for the next Republican pennant race. Right now it's wide open.
"We don't have one spokesman right now. That's just one of the features of not having either house in Congress or having the White House. You don't have an official place to be heard," former Massachusetts Governor and former GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney told CNN's Larry King recently.
Romney's the Republicans' power hitter. Republicans have a history of nominating candidates who ran and lost before - Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, John McCain. Romney ran in the last presidential campaign and did pretty well.
He wins straw polls of conservative insiders all the time, including the 2007 Iowa straw poll and the last three straw polls taken at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
"This is the time to pare back government spending. It is not the time to fulfill every liberal dream and spend America into catastrophe," Romney told CPAC in February.
Romney's all over television, and this week he's addressing a national Republican fundraising dinner. His interest in the next race?
"That is too far to speculate on," Romney told CNN"s John Roberts on American Morning.
That's the political equivalent of, `"Aw, shucks."
Sarah Palin got a late season call up last year. She recently urged a dinner of Alaska Republicans to keep the conservative faith.
"Sometimes, the middle of the fence is really the most uncomfortable place to be," John McCain's 2008 running mate told Republicans at the Anchorage Lincoln Day Dinner.
Palin has declined an invitation to address a national Republican dinner in June. She'll be replaced by the party's leading pinch hitter, Newt Gingrich. Is the old timer looking to make a comeback?
"I am not undertaking any steps at the present time to do anything about a presidential campaign," the former House Speaker said last month after an appearance on the Sunday talk shows.
Try taking that to the bank.
Mike Huckabee's the Republicans' position player. He ran last time and got most of his support from southern Republicans and religious voters.
"My conservatism is rooted in my understanding of the scriptures," the former Arkansas governor told CPAC last year.
The leading rookie prospect? Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who created a stir when he spoke to a Republican dinner last month here in the nation's capital.
"Do you want the president to fail?" Jindal asked himself. His answer: "It depends on what he is trying to do."
Is it too early to start the next pennant race? Well, you might say the 2008 Democratic race started four years before, when an unknown player was selected to make a speech at a party event. That was a rookie by the name of Barack Obama.