Monday, June 25, 2007

Washington Post says Mitt Romney is #1

Chris Cillizza's line from the Washington Post says Mitt Romney is #1.

1. Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor takes over the top spot on The Line for the first time this cycle. Why? Because his strength in Iowa led both former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain to back out of the state GOP's straw poll set for this summer; because he appears headed for another first- or second-place finish in the money chase; and because he continues to withstand attacks on his decision to change positions on key issues like gay rights without losing the momentum he is building. We know all the reasons why we shouldn't read too much into Romney's pole position in surveys in Iowa and New Hampshire -- he's the only major Republican candidate on the airwaves, the race isn't yet engaged etc. But he's still ahead in the two most important early states, and that matters. (Previous ranking: 3)

2. (tie) Rudy Giuliani: The former mayor of New York doesn't drop from the top spot because of his terrible, no good, horrible, and very badweek. Rather, he drops because at some point his lack of any serious organization in any of the first three voting states -- Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- puts him at a clear disadvantage in the nomination fight. While the early states may (and we emphasize may) have less influence in picking the nominee than they have in years past due to the looming presence of a number of huge states set to vote in late January or early February, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Giuliani finishes out of the top two in any of the first three states and remains viable on the Feb. 5 SUPER primary. Don't get us wrong: Giuliani's fundraising prowess and reputation as "America's Mayor" means he still has a very real shot at winning the GOP nomination. But he better get started building organizations in those early states -- and quick. (Previous ranking: 1)

2.(tie). Fred Thompson: It's hard to ignore the fact that the former Tennessee senator has catapulted close to the top of the Republican field before he has even announced his presidential candidacy. Thompson has the widespread disaffection among Republicans with the current field to thank for his rapid rise, but we don't hold that against him. After all, timing is everything in politics. Conservatives appear to be coalescing behind Thompson's non-campaign, and early indications are that his fundraising operation is going strong. So why not put him in the top spot on The Line? As usual, The Fix's former boss, Charlie Cook, said it best in what could well be a prescient column about Thompson's approach to the race. And did anyone else think Thompson's response to whether or not he would like to be president was something less than convincing? (Previous ranking: 4)

4. John McCain: McCain's tumble from the top of The Line has been as precipitous as it has been unexpected. After promising that McCain would greatly exceed his fundraising total from the first quarter, his aides are now privately scaling back expectations for the second quarter (another third-place finish behind Romney and Giuliani is likely). And whether it's immigration or some other cocktail of issues, McCain's poll numbers in early states are taking a dive. The question for McCain is whether he can make it through the summer and fall -- from a perception standpoint -- given where he is likely to be in early polling and fundraising. Can McCain come back? Of course. There's lots of talk about John Kerry's Lazarus impersonation in the 2004 presidential race inside McCain world these days. But frankly, the race for McCain is now about survival, not dominance. It's a stunning turnaround. (Previous ranking: 2)

5. Mike Huckabee: If there was a nationally televised debate every week, Huckabee might be higher up on The Line. He has been the runaway star of the first three Republican get-togethers, thanks to his wit, plain-spokenness and charm. But here's the broken-record portion of the Huckabee write-up: The Fix just doesn't see any evidence that his success in the debates is being translated into anything real on the ground. The Ames Straw poll will be a big moment for Huckabee; with Giuliani and McCain out (and Thompson still not a confirmed participant), Ames represents an opportunity for Huckabee to make a show of organizational strength. If he places second behind Romney, Huckabee should be able to turn that into momentum for a potential breakthrough in the Iowa caucuses. We'll be watching. (Previous ranking: 5)

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