Monday, June 11, 2007

GOP Rankings

White House 2008 Rankings: The Republicans
© National Journal Group Inc.
Monday, June 11, 2007

At about the midpoint of the year, a few things are clear -- Fred Thompson will run, John McCain is in trouble, Rudy Giuliani is not invincible and Mitt Romney still has many thresholds to cross.

There are so many more unknowns: whether McCain will have enough money to be viable, whether the Ames straw poll will help second-tier candidates, whether immigration stays at the top of the agenda, etc. And then, as Donald Rumsfeld would say, there are the unknown unknowns.

These rankings are ordered by likelihood of winning the Republican primary and are based on a number of factors, including organization, money, buzz and polling.


1. Rudy Giuliani
Former New York City mayor Last Ranking: 1
He's had some crisp debate performances, handled the necessary Ames dropout and is raising lots of money. But he's not the strongest front-runner in the field. Every poll we've seen suggests Fred Thompson will hurt him more than the C.W. says. We -- and Rudy -- will know in two weeks just how deep his support is. The inch-deep celebrity support will peel off, so the question is, how much of his support is based on his celebrity? Keep an eye on this surprisingly tight Rudy-McCain axis developing. The two seem to have teamed up a bit, at least when it comes to dealing with Romney (and maybe Thompson).

2. Mitt Romney
Former Massachusetts governor Last Ranking: 3
He leads in Iowa and New Hampshire due to his TV spending and hundreds of thousands of voter contacts. The press doesn't like his debate performances but dial groups do. His sons are major assets. The Ames decisions by Rudy and McCain have given Romney a good problem to have -- Iowa expectations. The downside, of course, is that Iowa is to Romney what Iowa is to Edwards. It's the whole ballgame. If Romney loses Iowa, he's done. It doesn't matter how much money he pours in; he HAS to win Iowa. The other candidates couldn't be happier about that, because if there's a way to stop the self-funder early, they are ecstatic. We'll be interested to see how his break with Bush on Iraq will play -- it's a tricky move, but could pay off. The GOP base seems to be looking for an anti-Bush.

3. John McCain
Arizona senator Last Ranking: 2
Two theories: He's a dead man walking. Or: He's viable, polling second or third in the major states without spending money, he's still able to set the agenda and wow the press, he's raising money and building good S.C. and Iowa organizations. The problem McCain has is that the press corps is waiting to work itself into an obit frenzy. McCain haters will say, "Serves you right. Live by the media sword, die by it." But frankly, what the press is doing to him isn't justified yet. The campaign has set some fair markers, particularly second-quarter money -- if he's second or third in money raised (not self-funding), then why is he not a player? It's crazy to write off a guy who is raising some $15M a quarter. McCain's biggest problem may not be in the GOP primary, but in the Dem primary; Obama is winning indies in N.H. -- the same folks who voted for McCain in '00.

4. Fred Thompson
Former Tennessee senator Last Ranking: 4
How will he handle his first round of bad press? It's only a matter of time. He gave his opponents' research departments a full month to begin shopping stories. His substance is still shaky. Some friendly interview questions have tripped him up (tort reform with Kudlow; Senate accomplishments with NBC/AP). We know he wants to steer clear of too many advisers, but he ought to go through some interview prep. Perhaps finding an early opportunity to debate might be an interesting way to shut some of us up.

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