Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are surging in the National Journal’s Hotline
political analysis. While former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty are still fixed firmly at first and second, respectively, Barbour and Gingrich are beginning to see some momentum.
Hotline ranks the candidates according to 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.
Their top 5 candidates in order.
1. Romney: “Romney's campaign-in-waiting has started picking up the pace. He's visiting key early states and recruiting staffers who will serve in key roles. But health care hangs over his head like the sword of Damocles, ready to fall at any moment.”
2. Pawlenty: “Pawlenty looks increasingly likely to step into the front-runner's void if Romney fizzles and no other candidate sets the world on fire. South Dakota Sen. John Thune’s decision not to run creates more room for a Midwestern conservative with few glaring vulnerabilities.”
3. Barbour: “No candidate's reputation has preceeded him with the chattering classes more than Barbour's. He has met the attending expectations in some cases, especially as he begins to form a top-notch staff.”
4. Gingrich: “There is no bigger ideas factory in the Republican Party than Newt Gingrich's brain. However, many of those ideas aren't realistic or feasible, and Gingrich's inflammatory rhetoric has gotten the best of him in the past.”
5. Mitch Daniels. “On paper, Daniels is a very intriguing candidate. He'd be a formidable contender -- if, that is, he actually showed signs he was interested in running. But despite conservative buzz over balancing the budget and reforming public services in Indiana, Daniels hasn’t taken any steps to prepare for a presidential campaign.”
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