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Ranking the GOP Candidates Ranking the GOP Candidates

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Magazine / POLITICS

Ranking the GOP Candidates

(Getty Images)

photo of Matthew  Dowd
July 21, 2011

This will be a regular look at the top candidates running for the Republican nomination for President.  It will attempt to measure (stretching the numeric use of the term) who is gaining momentum and who is losing momentum as each candidate pursues the nomination.
This momentum measure will include (but not be limited to):  how effective a candidate’s media appearances have been, how much they traveled and connected in key states, how effective their messaging has been, have they gathered important endorsements or staff,  have they made mistakes, and how their finance operation is going (money raised and money spent).  While it will be a bit unscientific and slightly subjective, it will hopefully be an accurate reflection of who is rising and who is falling on the important measure of momentum.    And I hope it will generate comment, criticism, and correction along the way from readers.

Here’s the first look:
1.   Romney.   He won the initial race for cash having raised significantly more than everyone else, he leads nationally in nearly every poll (though not in a dominant way and has suffered some slippage in last month or so), and he has the most national campaign experience.

2.     Bachmann.  In most national polls she is now second to Romney (and she leads in some in Iowa), she raised a laudable amount of cash in a short period, and by many accounts her appearances on the trail have generated more energy than the other candidates in the field among conservative primary voters.  She has suffered a bit recently related to media coverage of her husband’s work and her previous statement’s on gay marriage and statements of her church which she has now left.

3.     Pawlenty.  He is well-liked by voters on the trail, his campaign is stocked with smart and experience operatives, he is doing well at controlling spending (but his amount raised was underwhelming), he has potential to do well in the Ames straw vote on August 13th (but his poll numbers have been stubbornly low for a while).

4.     Paul.   He has lots of national campaign experience, he has shown a great capacity to raise significant low dollar contributions, he is the most disciplined on the fiscal conservative message, and he has shown an ability to do well in straw  poll votes.  But does he have the same lid on vote totals that has existed in previous efforts?

5.     Huntsman.  Popular among the “different kind of Republican” crowd, seasoned operatives, rich (so can spend his own money if he is willing which is big question), and created lots of buzz initially (but less buzzy today).

6.     Perry, Palin, and Guiliani.   I know, I know… they aren’t announced candidates but each of them casts a shadow over the nomination process in merely the possibility of running - especially Palin and Perry.   Each would create energy on the trail quickly, can raise at least moderate amounts of money, and has message and campaign experience.  If one gets in, it will shake up the field.

Also rans: Tie for the current also-rans.  Santorum, Cain, Gingrich, Roemer, McCotter and Johnson - are all having a difficult time breaking through on the trail, haven’t really demonstrated staying power, and need to get some momentum prior to the Ames Straw vote (or do surprisingly well so they get some coming out).  Right now the money is on these folks being the first to drop out as the weeks go on.

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