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Russell Baker, the legendary New York Times columnist, used to make fun of journalists who published names of possible political candidates by saying they had been "mentioned" as possibilities. It was, Baker said, as if there was a "Great Mentioner."
With the 2012 presidential campaign getting started slowly, political writers are again relying on the Great Mentioner for lists of possible Republican candidates. They include Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain and Donald Trump, among others.
We're keeping an eye out for formal announcements, but as some candidates form exploratory committees and others talk about the possibility of forming exploratory committees, we're putting the possible candidates to the Truth-O-Meter.
A few of our recent items:
President Barack Obama, who is expected to run for re-election, earned a Half True for his claim that regime change in Iraq took eight years.
As for the Republican candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich got a Full Flop on our Flip-O-Meter for his statements about Libya. (Obama also earned a Full Flop for his statements on the same issue.)
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has published Courage to Stand: an American Story, a book about his background and approach to governing. We're fact-checking several claims from the book and have already published two. Pawlenty earned a Half True for his claim that he brought down state spending dramatically and he earned a Mostly True when he said the National Transportation Safety Board blamed the Minneapolis bridge collapse on a design problem.
We have done many fact-checks on U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann. In our recent check, she earned a Pants on Fire for her claim that the Obama administration has only issued one new permit for oil drilling.
We've done one check of former restaurant executive Herman Cain, an item by PolitiFact Georgia on his claim that the United States is the only developed country in the world that has not cut its corporate tax rate. That earned a Half True.
We've also checked a claim by Donald Trump that people who went to school with Obama didn't remember him. That earned a Pants on Fire.
Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, earned a False for his claim that the U.S. population would be one-third larger if not for abortion.
We'll be fact-checking all the candidates and possible candidates over the next few months. And to find out who is running, we'll be checking with the Great Mentioner.
See Truth-O-Meter items.