Power Rankings: Default -- the Two Sweetest Words in the English Language

Power ranking time! Whoo-pah!

Republicans

mccainpopeye.jpg1. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (Last Rank: 1)

McCain has pretty much locked the GOP nomination up. Things are so clearly in his favor that Hugh Hewitt gave his concession speech today; presumably, Mitt Romney's won't be far behind.

McCain did not so much win the GOP nomination as his opponents lost it. Romney was too slick, Huckabee too crazy Christianist, Thompson too sleepy, Giuliani too 9/11, Keyes too Keyes. That doesn't mean McCain has the GOP rank and file on his side. Already, "Suicide Republicans" are suggesting that they'll stay home on election day rather than support Old Man Surge. I'm not so sure about that, but I think they will sit on their wallets and their hands during the general election.

McCain was the most dangerous of the GOP candidates, but that's like being the most tolerant member of Westboro Baptist Church. He's not a great GOP candidate by any measure, the Bob Dole of 2008. But he's their guy, for good or ill.

huckabeefalwell.jpg

2. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark. (LR: 3)

Don't get me wrong, Huckabee is a serious dark horse candidate at this point. But he's got some advantages that Romney simply doesn't have. He's got evangelical voters on his side, and he doesn't need money to woo them; moreover, they're plenty fine with supporting a lost cause now in order to build for the future. The only way he drops out is if McCain offers him the penultimate spot on the ticket, which I don't see happening. He won't win -- but he'll ride the wave to a nice speaking slot at the convention and a chance to run against President Clinton or President Obama in 2012.

romneyhill.jpg3. Former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass.

If you want to know what Mitt Romney's problem is in a nut shell, here it is: on National Public Radio last night, commentators were talking about how well Romney did in his "adopted home state of Massachusetts." This is, of course, the state Romney was governor of. But that's Romney: a guy who's from at least four states and a guy who's taken at least six positions on every issue. He's simply an empty suit, a cipher, a guy willing to say anything to win the presidency. And quite frankly, if I was a Republican, I'd be terrified of him, because if he can change his opinions on a whim to win the nomination, he can change them again once elected. It's no wonder he couldn't win.

paulnader.jpg4. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Tex. (LR: 5)

It's clear at this point that Ron Paul won't win a state in the GOP race; his best shots were states like Alaska and Montana, but he's not done better than second anywhere. But that's okay for Paul; he simply isn't running for the GOP nomination at this point. No, I expect he's laying the groundwork for an independent run, probably as a Libertarian; certainly, the Libertarian party can be expected to enthusiastically back Paul if he makes the choice. Yes, it would probably destroy his chances of winning re-election, but frankly, Paul is 193 years old. He may be ready to retire, and this is a way to exit the stage with a bang.

keyesmorgan.JPG5. Ambassador Alan Keyes, R-Md., Ill., D.C., and Jupiter (LR: 6)

Alan Keyes struggles on in his valiant bid to become the most ridiculous presidential candidate since...Alan Keyes in 2000. Why does he do it? Because he's insane. Just completely, totally insane. He's so insane that he's too insane for the Republican party, and that's just darn insane. I'd feel bad for him, but he's Alan Keyes, a man who blames our presence in Iraq on legal abortion. He's basically Fred Phelps with ballot access.

Dropping Out: A Brokered Convention (4)

Democrats

obamaman.jpg1. Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. (LR: 1)

This is going to get very interesting, very fast. While Obama and Clinton ended last night in pretty much a flat-footed tie, the rest of the month absolutely favors Obama. There are ten prizes up for grabs over the rest of the month: Louisiana, Washington, Maine, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Hawai'i, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Wisconsin. Of those ten, Obama will be favored in at least nine, and it's entirely possible he can run the table over the rest of the month.

This is Obama's strategy for victory: win out in February, go into the March 4 primaries with all the momentum in the world and a delegate lead. Use the momentum to earn at least a split of Ohio and Texas, and possibly a win. And at that point, claim victory, and hope that enough Clinton supporters rally around him to end the race. In the short term, Obama has the best opportunity to end it. That's the glass-half-full view for Obama supporters. But what of the number two candidate?

clintonwoman.jpg2. Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. (LR: 2)

Obama can wrap things up if everything breaks right for him in the next few weeks. But it's entirely possible they won't. Just because Obama's favored in the next ten races, that doesn't mean he'll win all ten. Oh, he'll probably win most of the races, but Clinton can take aim at a few states where she'll have a chance, like Washington state and Virginia. If she can steal a few states and keep the rest close, she'll be able to effectively blunt Obama's momentum, and keep the race a muddled mess. That's probably the best she can hope for over the rest of the month, but it could well be enough. Both Ohio and Texas are good states for Clinton based on who's been supporting her so far: Texas has a large Latino population, a group Clinton has done well with, and Ohio has a number of working-class Dems, who have also supported Clinton. If Clinton can muddy the waters between now and March, and then win the March 4 primaries, she can make the same claim Obama would like to: that she's the presumptive nominee, and that it's time for people to unify. I view this as slightly less likely than Obama running the table and building up steam, but only slightly.

explosion.jpg3. A Brokered Convention (LR: NR)

And of course, there is a third possibility: that neither Clinton nor Obama can get enough traction to end this thing. Other than the March 4 primaries, only Wyoming and Mississippi hold primaries in March. The next major showdown would be Pennsylvania, which doesn't happen until April 22. If it gets down to Pennsylvania, that state probably favors Clinton, but the May 6 primaries in Indiana and North Carolina probably end up a split. West Virginia on May 13 is probably Clinton territory, Kentucky and Oregon go to the polls on May 20 and both are probably toss-ups. Idaho holds a non-binding primary on May 27, and Montana and South Dakota go to the polls on June 3, and...that's it. None of the states after Pennsylvania offer a chance for a clear knock-out, especially when one factors in proportional assignment of delegates.

And therein lies the problem: it's pretty clear that we could end up watching Clinton and Obama slog on, neither getting a clear lead or building up momentum enough to pull in the other's supporters. And we end up with a virtual tie.

Now, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that a tie most likely favors the candidate with more delegates, even one with a narrow lead; superdelegates exist to put someone over the top, and I suspect they'll be loath to anoint the losing candidate as the party's nominee, for fear of fracturing the party. But I could be wrong.

I still think it's more likely that Clinton or Obama will start pulling in voters who want a clear answer, and that one of them will get a clear mandate. But there's not a lot of real estate left, and this remains a possibility.

gravelscrewball.jpg4. Former Sen. Mike Gravel, D-Alaska (LR: 3)

Mike Gravel...uh...is...uh...running for president, and he's...um...not doing that well. I can't really explain his continued presence in the race, given that he continually loses to other candidates who are not, in fact, running for president any more. But there he is, plugging away for some reason I can't quite fathom. He's not hurting anybody, but he's not really making an impact at this point, either.


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