After three Reep and two Dem debates, its time again to rate the contenders.
Barack Obama 6.6
Hillary Clinton 6.1
According to the latest USA Today/Gallup polling, Hillary and Barack are in a dead-heat. However, the mojo is clearly with Barack.
John Edwards 3.2
I don't see how Edwards is going to close the gap. The right-wing slime machine has jumped all over Edwards (the big house, the haircut, etc), forcing him into playing some defense - and that's always deadly in a political race. The good news for Edwards is there is still a lot of time for him to rebound.
Bill Richardson 0.9
Two chances to elevate himself into the top tier, but didn't do it. He's campaigning for a another cabinet position. Again, there is still time, but the clock is ticking loudly.
Dennis Kucinich 0.8
The darling of many liberals, and understandably so. However, he suffers from something similar that afflicted Howard Dean - his demeanor. It isn't the lack of gravitas, its not even his height or anything like that. I'm having trouble putting my finger on it exactly. Dean was kind of irritating to watch in debate, Kucinch isn't irritating. Maybe its the sense that a Kucinch presidency wouldn't get anything done because he's too idealistic to actually compromise. Maybe its the realization he isn't really trying to win.
Mike Gravel 0.7
Strong on Iraq, but has no base, no way, no shot, no how, never.
Joe Biden 0.4
One word - why? I just don't get the Biden bid at all. Joe, you want secretary of defense in the next administration, you got it. Now, shut up and go away.
Chris Dodd 0.2
His bid is meaningless. I know he's ticked about not getting enough air time in the debate, but no one really cares.
Wild Card - Al Gore 4.9
There's the Tennessee Two that aren't in the race - at least not yet. Tennessee Thompson is all but in, but Big Al Gore is playing coy. Maybe he's in, maybe not. The intrigue is interesting and attractive (what do you mean you might not want to be president?) The difference to me between Al and Fred is that Gore can still manage a big pop if he enters, whereas Fred Dalton (I believe) is at his apex.
I think a Clinton-Obama-Gore-Edwards tussle would be a dream for the dems. I'd like Richardson to still be in the mix due to his resume. Kick the rest out, and let these five barnstorm the country in debate of the issues.
Rudy Giuliani 5.2
Rudy G. continues to hold a strong double digit lead over McCain and Romney. However, he generally tops out around 33% in the polls (McCain and Romney are in the high teens and low teens, respectively). My question is - where does Rudy pick up support when other contenders drop out? Rudy is so far to the left of the other candidates on most social issues, its like he's in another room altogether. The base is getting antsy in a big way over Rudy. I just don't see much more upside for him.
John McCain 3.6
Dead man walking. Disses BushCo when BushCo was at the height of popularity, and latches onto BushCo's butt cheeks as BushCo is circling the toilet. McCain is not only married to BushCo, but to Iraq and the immigration bill. Now, he's cussing a lot. Cue Don Merideth, The party's over.
Mitt Romney 3.1
It would interesting if Romney and Edwards both won the nomination. The could have a coiffe-off debate - winner gets to give a haircut to the loser. Romney is telegenic and bright and has a strong resume (except for foreign policy expertise).
Mike Huckabee 0.9
Mike has a folksy down-to-Earth demeanor that might elevate him past the top three (or four or five (more on Tennessee Jed, er Fred and Newt below). The base is clamoring for something different - a second coming of Dubya without the baggage and hubris. Huckabee could fit the bill.
Ron Paul 0.9
Vive la difference! One has to like Paul because he sets himself so far apart from the rest of the pack. Unfortunately, he suffers from a similar problem that befuddles Kucinch - its that electability thing. Its hard to finger, but there it is. Paul has no hope, we know and he knows it.
Sam Brownback 0.4
Brownback proves true why Senators should not run for president. I believe he's been lapped by Huckabee in the race to vault from second tier to first tier.
Duncan Hunter 0.3
Hunter has no chance and he knows it. The question remains: What is driving this guy. Ego?
Jim Gilmore 0.2
This guy is not impressive. The Reeps would be well-serve to eliminate Gilmore from future debates, if only to give the other candidates some more time.
Tom Tancredo 0.2
Its just too hard to out-hate your opponents in a Republican battle for president. Tancredo is not quite ready for prime-time.
Tommy Thompson 0.1
Simply terrible. He's had three debate opportunities and hasn't shown presidential timber. This guy is meat.
Wild Card - Fred Thompson 3.5
Fred will enter the race slightly ahead of Mitt Romney. He adds some flair to the race, as I expect him to be strong in debate due to his long acting career (I don't mean that in a cynical way; its just that he's had lots of opportunity to hone his speaking skills.) Thompson will run as a limited government Reaganite, a pretty good place to land. He has some potential upside - maybe a lot of upside. We just won't know until until after a few debates and policy speeches as an official candidate.
Wild Card - Newt Gingrich 2.8
Newt may join the race, or maybe he won't. Newt claims he wants to elevate the debate. That's all fine, but Gingrich carries some heavy political baggage. His recent row with Tom DeLay certainly doesn't tag Gingrich as the great uniter of the party. I would be interested to have Gingrich on the stage with six other Reeps - Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Fred Thompson, Huckabee and Paul (I only add Paul because he brings such a different point of view than all of the other candidates). That might be a bit crowded.
Revolt's Crystal Ball - Looking to January 1, 2008
I anticipate some candidates dropping out due to a combination of fatigue, realization they can't win, lack of funds and being excluded from debates. By the end of the year, the top three dems will still be in. Kucinich is in because he's running on issues, not to win. I would love to see Al Gore enter the race, if only to energize the debates.
On the Reep side, things are more complicated. Giuliani will be in for a long time because he can compete in the big states. I think either McCain or Romney drops out. From there it gets messy. Does Gingrich stay in all the way to the convention with his five to ten percent support? Can the minor candidates stick around? Will Fred Thompson blast off like a rocket. My crystal ball says that Giuliani, Romney, Fred Thompson, Newt, Huckabee, Paul and Tancredo are still standing January 1st, and the rest are with the dead armadillos.