Super Power Rankings!

Okay, they're a bit late, I'll admit it, but hey, it's morning somewhere.

As you'll be able to see immediately, the format for the Power Rankings is changing this week; with the GOP race over and the Democratic race at least at the end of the beginning, it's not really that interesting to break the race down by party anymore. I mean, duh, John McCain is going to be atop the GOP board for, you know, ever. So I've combined the field into one big supergigantic board, ranked in order of likelihood of winning the presidency. As always, these are not based on anything other than my own sense of how things are going; no wagering.

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

It's been a good week-and-a-half for Barack Obama. Week-and-a-half, you ask? Yes, that's it. Super Tuesday was, believe it or not, only a week ago. Since then, Obama's had blowout wins in six states, a district, and an organized, unincorporated territory. During the same period, his leading opponent has won...nothing. Obama leads in pledged delegates. He leads in total delegates, including Superdelegates -- and not for nothing, but the Center for Congressional and Presidential studies is trying to model how the undeclared Supers will break based on how others have, and they're predicting the undeclareds will break 2-1 for Obama. As of today, Obama leads in the RealClearPolitics national poll average for the first time. He's also taken the lead in the Rasmussen and Gallup tracking polls, again, both for the first time.

But wait -- there's more. By most models, Obama's lead in pledged delegates is such that Hillary Clinton would have to win 55 percent of the remaining delegates to overtake Obama in pledged delegates -- and that means she has to do far better than 55 percent in places like Texas and Ohio to offset likely Obama wins in North Carolina and Mississippi. Oh, and Obama now has a lead in votes cast for him, even with Florida factored in.

In short, Obama is the frontrunner, and if not the prohibitive frontrunner, than certainly the strong favorite down the stretch. Even if Obama loses in Texas and Ohio, if he keeps the delegate count close coming out of there, it's going to be pretty much over.

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

What? Hillary in second, ahead of Old Man Surge? Well, yeah. This is based on chances of winning the presidency, and while Hillary is probably a 5-1 shot to get the nomination, if she somehow gets the blowouts she needs in Ohio and Texas, she could end up the Democratic nominee -- and the Democratic nominee will have an 85 percent or better shot at winning in the fall.

So hey, she's got that going for her. Now, the bad news.

It's not just that Hillary's going through senior-level campaign staffers the way Rush Limbaugh goes through oxycontin. It's not just that Hillary's campaign is moving out of DC for cheaper digs in Virginia. It's not the fact that the Clinton campaign appears to be unable to mount even a tepid challenge to Obama in primary states. No, it's that Clinton chose today to go negative. And what she's going negative on pretty much says it all.

The negative ad isn't all that bad; it's a pretty standard-issue debate challenge ad, demanding Obama debate in Wisconsin. It's what a trailing candidate usually does -- demand more debates with the front-runner, trying to get more chances to take a whack at the piñata.

Now, the demand for more debates never actually leads to votes -- there's not an American alive who voted against a candidate because they only would agree to sixty-two debates, not sixty-three. But it can sometimes lead to more debates, where the frontrunner might stumble or say something dumb or look bad, and that can sometimes help someone who's back a ways make a run. It's a bank-shot, but it's a pretty common one.

The thing is, it's what losing campaigns do when they're desperate to change the state of the race, and don't know quite how to make it happen. And that's where the Clinton campaign is -- losing, and at a loss to change the game.

The Clinton campaign is still talking tough -- Howard Wolfson said flatly that the Clinton campaign would not concede the race even if Obama ends up with a clear majority of pledged delegates, as long as some Superdelegates remain alive to woo. But here's the thing: the Superdelegates are not uniformly Clintonistas, nor are they political neophytes. If Barack Obama has 150 more pledged delegates than Clinton after March 4, the Supers will break, decisively, for Obama. They will do so to prevent the sort of fratricidal mayhem that Wolfson is actively courting.

Fratricidal mayhem is probably the best shot Clinton has at this point. But while the Clinton campaign is talking tough right now, the fact is that they're not political neophytes either. And if Clinton doesn't land a big, knockout blow on March 4, the pressure to concede will be unbelievably intense. Don't forget, Hillary Clinton's career in politics doesn't end if she loses the presidency; she could be a U.S. Senator for a long time, and a damn powerful one, too. The only way she could screw that up would be for her to lose without grace. I think she's too smart for that. If she gets the knockout blow on March 4, then who knows what happens? If not, I think we all know what happens.

3. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (LR: 1-R)

If Tuesday night was a preview of an Obama-McCain race, then it should be over rather quickly. McCain's response to Obama was...well, look, Hillary Clinton has done pretty well arguing that hope means nothing without substance. Oh, she's not winning, but she's making a game of it. I think that message has some ability to resonate with people. The message that hope is pointless, though, is not exactly going to win people over. And that's precisely the message McCain delivered on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Straight Talk Express continues its zig-zag journey, today voting in favor of waterboarding. So for those of you keeping score at home: today, John McCain is in favor of torture. This is, as with so many of McCain's firm convictions, negotiable down the line.

And this is why I continue to believe that McCain is a far weaker candidate than is generally understood. Yes, "John McCain" polls really well, but "John McCain" is a man who says what he means and means what he says. He's a guy who's really moderate, listens to folks across the aisle, and basically is a tabula rasa. John McCain, on the other hand, has the second-most conservative voting record in the senate this year, a lifetime 0% rating from NARAL, and a true willingness to pander to the right as need be.

McCain is ascerbic, which is fine in moderation, but grating the more you see it. He has sung songs about bombing Iran, and has suggested that Americans don't care if we're in Iraq for the next 10,000 years. He is a much weaker candidate than anyone, left or right, has really grasped. And whether the nominee from the Democrats is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, McCain is going to have a very uphill battle trying to win the presidency.

4. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (LR: 2-R)

Huckabee could theoretically win the GOP nomination. Oh, it's bloody unlikely, but it could possibly happen, maybe, if, say John McCain shot someone or something. If he gets the nomination, he's more likely to win than any third-party candidate, but will he get the nomination? No, probably not.

Still, Huckabee's not going to go away quickly, and why would he? As he's said, he has nothing better to do. And I think he's viewing this as a long audition for 2012, after John McCain flames out in the fall. Huckabee is positioning himself for a comeback in four years, when the GOP field will be much as it is now, only with such luminaries as Minnesota Gov. Tim "Bridge? What Bridge?" Pawlenty in the mix. In short, the group gunning for President Obama or President Clinton in four years should be just as woebegone as the group gunning for them this year. If Huckabee can hang around until March 4, he has that much longer to make the impression on voters that they coulda had him, if they'd been smarter.

5. Mayor Mike Bloomberg, I-New York City (LR: NR)

Will Bloomberg run or won't he? Oooh, I know we're all just waiting with bated breath, wondering what America's Deputy Mayor is going to do.

Okay, I'm kidding: Bloomberg almost certainly won't run.

Back when it looked like a Hillary Clinton-Mitt Romney race was possible, heck yeah, Bloomberg had a reason to run. Oh, it was a stupid reason -- Bloomberg is basically a slightly-more-fiscally-moderate Democrat, someone who would easily fit into the party somewhere to the left of Evan Bayh, after all -- but he could at least pretend to be the moderate antidote to those wacky liberals and conservatives.

But Barack Obama and John McCain are arguably the two least polarizing candidates in the race. And that's a problem for Mike Bloomberg. I mean, how do you run against Barack Obama when he's been treated as the Second Coming for a few months now? How do you charge in against the Straight Talk Express, claiming McCain is far too conservative? Oh, you and I know that Obama and Clinton are pretty much indistinguishable on policy, and that McCain is not nearly so moderate as he's portrayed. But still, the media narrative won't support a Bloomberg candidacy. And all the billions in the world won't move Bloomberg past a fickle media. Still, he's got a better chance than Nader.

6. Former Rep. Cynthia McKinney, Green-GA (LR: NR)

I put McKinney ahead of Ralph Nader because, I mean, for the love of criminy, at least she's not Ralph Nader. Does she have a shot at the presidency? Is the Pope Jewish? Does a bear shit in the Palace at Versailles? No, of course she doesn't have a shot at the presidency. But as a human being whith a non-zero chance of appearing on the ballot this fall, she at least could, hypothetically, win, if, like, aliens took over the bodies of Obama and McCain the way they did on that Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror" episode.

What was I saying? Oh yeah, McKinney. Certainly, if you're a member of the Green party, McKinney is light years ahead of Ralph "It's All About Meeeeee!" Nader, given that McKinney is, you know, not a complete douchehound. She's wacky and extremely liberal, but she's seeking the Green party endorsement, so I repeat myself.

All in all, a McKinney third-party candidacy would not be a complete embarrassment to the Greens, so that's a big step forward for the party. One would hope the Greens would recognize that.

7. Some Crazy Libertarian Douchebag (LR: NR)

Now that Ron Paul has said he's not going to seek the Libertarian party nomination, that goofball party's just going to put some other douchebag up for the presidency. And he (all Libertarians are male, save for Ayn Rand) will undoubtedly come out and say something that briefly appears to make sense about waterboarding or pot use or some shit, and then he'll be all like, "And then we need to privatize all roads!" And you'll be like, "What?" And he'll be like, "And then, we need to eliminate the FDA, and let people just try whatever drugs the pharmaceutical companies want to give them, and the market will keep the food supply safe!" And you'll be like, "Uh..." And then they'll say, "And we need to eliminate medicare and social security!" And you'll be like, "Okay, I've gotta go now," but the douchebag just won't. Shut. Up. He'll keep yammering on about Hayek and Ayn Rand and how he just loved The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and Time Enough For Love, and really, Heinlein was such a visionary, man. But by then you'll be running, running, running for your life.

8. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas (LR: 3-R)

Okay, he says he's going back to his district in Texas to try to win his primary. But maybe that's what he wants you to think. After all, we all know that there is a high correlation between libertarians and computer programming. You think the GOP is hacking Diebold voting systems? That what Ron Paul wants you to think. No, when President Paul is sworn in next January -- right before he dissolves the Union -- some people will wonder how it happened, given that he wasn't even on the ballot. But you won't be surprised at all. No, you'll be safely across the border in Canada, just like I will be.

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

Okay, Mike, this is just getting sad. I mean, dude, you finished somewhere below pond scum in the Potomac Primaries. On Super Tuesday, you collected a grand total of three votes. You're currently polling below Kevin Phillips Bong, Slightly Silly-Luton.

You were a United States senator. You read the freakin' Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record. Seriously, it's been a nice run, but it really is time to fold up the tent, if for no other reason than I have completely run out of things to say about you. Okay, that's not a reason to drop out, but's not a reason to stay in, either.

Don't run, Mike, don't run.

10. Ambassador Alan Keyes, R-Somewhere (LR: 4-R)

Like Hillary Clinton, Alan Keyes has staked his entire presidential camapaign on Texas. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he'll probably keep running even if he loses very badly in Texas, which he will. It's abortion's fault.

Poor Alan Keyes, he's a man who was born in the wrong time. His social prescriptions would have made him very popular 3500 years ago. I mean, he would have been a bit conservative, but still, he'd have drawn some support from the Mesopotamians. Now, though, his message just doesn't seem to be so much resonating with anyone. The good news: it won't adversely affect his 2012 run.

11. Ralph Nader, I-Unsafe at Any Speed

Do you get the sense that I don't like Ralph Nader much anymore? That I believe fervently that he shredded every whit of good he ever did when he declared there was "not a dime's worth of difference" between Al Gore and George W. Bush (a statement that has to go up there with Bill Kristol's "Iraq is very secular" and Jefferson Davis' "Slavery is totally awesome!" as one of the wrongest things ever said by any American in the history of the republic)? Do you feel like I really wish Ralph would just take his toasted tunafish sandwiches back under the rock he lives under? Well, you'd be wrong. If you thought that, you'd have the impression that I was far more positively disposed toward Nader than I am.

I hold out hope that the Green party shares my opinion. After all, it's not like Nader's done wonders for them. He managed to make them a target of scorn and derision in the progressive world, and...uh...well, that's pretty much it, actually. He didn't run to push the Green agenda, after all, but to push the Ralph Nader agenda.

Cynthia McKinney at least seems like someone willing to push an extremely liberal position in a new and different way. Nader appears ready to run the same warmed-over campaign he ran in 2004, only duller. I would hope the Greens wouldn't be interested in turning their ballot access over, yet again, to Nader for an ego trip. But time will tell.

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