Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Washington Post calls Romney the front runner!

The Washington Post has finally come out with what Mitt Rocks! already knew, that Mitt is the front runner for the Republican nomination.

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Mitt Romney

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)

Rudy Giuliani

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)

Fred Thompson

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)

John McCain

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)


Hillary Rodham Clinton

1. Hillary Rodham Clinton: When all of the Democratic candidates stand on a debate stage together, it's Clinton who looks and sounds the most like a president. Don't underestimate the importance of debates in offering voters a chance to compare and contrast the field. While Clinton is broadening her lead in national polls, she remains in tight contests in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Iowa is the first and most important challenge. The caucus electorate is strongly anti-war, and Clinton's positioning on Iraq is less pure than Barack Obama's. But her organization is rapidly improving thanks to the addition of Theresa Vilmain, and the Clinton team knows just how important a strong caucus showing is for her chances. (Previous ranking: 1)

Barack Obama

2. Barack Obama: We don't buy the current conventional wisdom that Obama's campaign has somehow stalled, a view that's based on the fact that he remains behind Clinton in national polls. From everything we hear, Obama will eclipse Clinton for the second straight quarter in fundraising -- an absolutely unthinkable development just six months ago. Obama continues to attract massive crowds wherever he goes, and his campaign is heavily focused on how best to turn those crowds into caucus supporters and primary votes. Obama's indifferent debate performances -- he was far better in the second debate than the first but still looked somewhere short of totally confident -- don't seem to have affected his numbers anywhere where it really matters. His biggest potential hurdle? Allowing slip-ups like the "D-Punjab" incident to knock him off the nonpartisan pedestal on which he claims to stand. (Previous ranking: 2)

John Edwards

3. John Edwards: June 30 will be a big day for the Edwards campaign. If his fundraising for the second quarter is far behind the high marks that Obama and Clinton are likely to set, it will be increasingly difficult for him to remain in the top tier. Edwards's saving grace has (and continues to be) his strength in Iowa. But the most recent independent poll in the state showed him in a statistical dead heat with Clinton and Obama. If Edwards doesn't win Iowa, he will struggle to remain viable, as his organization currently trails those of Clinton and Obama in New Hampshire. Taking a page from Sen. John Kerry's playbook in 2004, Edwards is seeking to inject the electability argument into the campaign. But after being burned by casting a head-over-heart vote in 2004, will Democratic voters go down that road again? (Previous ranking: 3)

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