Political junkies are complaining that the Republican presidential contest is off to a slow, even debilitating, start. No GOP candidate has even declared or filed an exploratory committee. Meanwhile, Democrats crow that the slow-forming Republican race is a boon for President Barack Obama.

The pundits are deluding themselves. With a little over 10 months before the caucuses and primaries, the Republican presidential contest has begun. Many candidates are running. They just haven't made it official. One reason: It's flattering for a prospective candidate to ask grass-roots leaders and fund-raisers to get on board even before there is a ground floor.

This is especially true in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Movers and shakers in these early contests in February and March are keenly aware of their special role. They want to be courted before a candidate formally jumps into the race.

Undeclared candidates can test and polish their messages without being subjected to the close scrutiny reserved for declared candidates. They can also test their campaign team's mettle in the opening skirmishes.

Karl Rove is a Fox News contributor. He is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush. To continue reading his column in the Wall Street Journal about the 2012 presidential campaign, click here.

Karl Rove joined Fox News Channel as a political contributor in February 2008. He also currently serves as a columnist for the Wall Street Journal. Mr. Rove helped organize the political-action committee American Crossroads. His latest book is "The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters" (Simon & Schuster, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @KarlRove.