04/27/2011 07:34 am ET | Updated Jun 27, 2011

Emily's List Issues First Round Of Top Prospects For 2012

WASHINGTON -- The Democratic political action committee Emily's List jumped into the 2012 election Wednesday with its first round of approved candidates, announcing support for four women running for Congress: Lois Frankel (FL-22), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Ann McLane Kuster (NH-02) and Christie Vilsack (IA-04).

Being "on the list" doesn't equate to a full endorsement, which comes with funding directly from the PAC. An organization focused on electing pro-choice Democratic women, Emily's List also typically doesn't make endorsements until early in the year of the election or late in the year before.

This early announcement is an attempt by the group to more fully engage its membership list, which it says is rapidly growing and now at more than 900,000 people, and to potentially gauge enthusiasm for the various candidates.

Under the tenure of President Stephanie Schriock, who took over in February 2010, Emily's List has increasingly focused on new media and reaching out to supporters online. One of its most popular efforts was an ad campaign taking aim at former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, called "Sarah Doesn't Speak for Me."

"2012 is shaping up to be a huge year for women candidates," Schriock said in a statement. "Women across the country are fired up over the extreme anti-woman agenda moving forward in the House and we are seeing women jump into races earlier than ever this year. Emily’s List wants to help them now. 'On the List' provides us with a way to get in faster and introduce our members to these great candidates right away."

In early April, Emily's List also put five GOP men -- Reps. Charlie Bass (NH-02), Chip Cravaack (MN-08), Paul Gosar (AZ-01), Joe Heck (NV-03) and Allen West (FL-22) -- "on notice," targeting them for defeat in 2012. With the exception of Heck, the list matches its newest round of approved candidates.

Kuster, a favorite among progressives, lost to Bass in 2010. Last month, she announced she'd be back for a 2012 rematch. Kirkpatrick was the representative in AZ-01, but Gosar unseated her in the last election. Vilsack is the former First Lady of Iowa and Frankel is the former West Palm Beach mayor. Both are considered top prospects in the Democratic circles.