Ranking the field
The Fix gives his take on the current status of the GOP field as follows:
4. Rudy Giuliani: Hizzoner has been out of the political conversation for a few weeks now and he's going to have to weather another three weeks -- at least -- before the focus turns to Florida's Jan. 29 primary, which the Giuliani campaign has cast as his firewall. What Giuliani is trying to do -- out of necessity more than conviction -- is break the stranglehold that the earliest states have long held on determining the identity of the nominee. If he can win the nomination, and that remains a MAJOR "if," Giuliani will have fundamentally altered the calculus of how nominees are chosen in the modern era. It's a major gamble, however, as the race could well be all-but-decided before the nation's attention ever turns to Florida. (Previous ranking: 4)
3. Mike Huckabee: It remains to be seen just how much bounce Huckabee will get in New Hampshire from his Iowa victory but our guess is that third place is probably the best he will do in the state. Romney and McCain appear ready to duke it out for first and second place. That means that the next big test for Huckabee is South Carolina where his demonstrated strength among evangelicals in Iowa should pay major dividends. Given that Huckabee could well win two of the first four states, why isn't he ranked higher? Because the fight for the Republican nomination now seems more likely to be a marathon than a sprint (to borrow a Huckabism) and the former Arkansas governor still has not demonstrated his ability to compete financially and organizationally in Florida (and beyond).
1. John McCain (tie): Even as we type this, we are stunned by the extent of the McCain comeback. The Arizona Senator was written off by his fellow candidates and the national media in August but continued to plug along outside of the spotlight, smartly focusing almost all of his time and resources on New Hampshire. Now, McCain appears ready to repeat his success of 2000 in the Granite State and, if he does, a path to the nomination suddenly opens up. McCain would be an early favorite in Michigan -- remember he won the state eight years ago -- and that could well build momentum as he heads to South Carolina where Huckabee awaits. McCain's great advantage in this nominating contest is -- and always has been -- that he has done it before. He knows what lies ahead of him and how to handle it. That could make all the difference down the stretch. (Previous ranking: 3)
1. Mitt Romney (tie): Yes, we know he spent millions of dollars to lose badly to Huckabee in Iowa. And, yes, we know that recent independent polling has shown Romney falling into second place behind McCain in New Hampshire. But, until we know what happens in the Granite State next Tuesday, it's hard to rank Romney anywhere but where we have him. He remains the best-funded candidate in the race and has worked for months to build a strong organization in New Hampshire. If he can pull off a win there next Tuesday, then Romney is right back in track as he will be well-positioned in his native Michigan. Of course, if he loses New Hampshire to McCain, it's probably the end for Romney. He's an all or nothing candidate. We'll find out which next Tuesday. (Previous ranking: 1)
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