Here we are, a year before the first caucuses and primaries, and to our stunned surprise, not a single presidential candidate has made his or her campaign official. But behind the scenes, the invisible primary is well under way, as candidates hit the trail and solicit support. We're tracking the key players and moves to answer the question: Who is best positioned to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination?
We rank the top 15 GOP contenders using four criteria:
Money: How much do they have? How much can they raise?
Campaign infrastructure: Do they have the ability to assemble a competitive and competent staff, both at the national and state levels?
Strengths: What issue(s) can the candidate truly hang their hat on? Is there a specific area of expertise they can sell to voters? Do they have a strong track record on one particular issue?
Weaknesses: Every candidate has one -- heck, most candidates have plenty -- and the reality is that eventually they will have to address them. This will be easier for some contenders than others: Explaining away one vote for bad legislation is far easier than justifying a major moral lapse or some fatally flawed executive decision. At the end of the day, some candidates will have weaknesses, and others will have albatrosses. It's the latter group who should be worried.
--- Who's TRENDING since our first edition of PPR:
RISING: Mitch Daniels, Jim DeMint, Mike Huckabee, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum
FALLING: Haley Barbour, Sarah Palin, John Thune
ARRIVALS: Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Rudy Giuliani, Jon Huntsman
DEPARTURES: Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Mike Pence, Rick Perry
For the full list, click here.