6. Ted Cruz
: Cruz is the biggest attraction among rank-and-file Republicans at the moment. He evokes genuine passion among the base — and that’s not ever to be underestimated. But it’s also worth remembering that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) held that title once upon a time, and she held it much closer to the time when people were actually set to cast votes for president.
5. Jeb Bush: This is our holding-pattern ranking for the former Florida governor. If he announces that he’s running or even that he’s moving toward running — heck, we’d take a Bush trip to Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina — then he is probably our No. 1 on the list.
Chris Cillizza is founder and editor of The Fix, a leading blog on state and national politics. He is the author of The Gospel According to the Fix: An Insider’s Guide to a Less than Holy World of Politics and an MSNBC contributor and political analyst. He also regularly appears on NBC and NPR’s The Diane Rehm Show. He joined The Post in 2005 and was named one of the top 50 journalists by Washingtonian in 2009.
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4. Paul Ryan: See the note above about our previous underestimating of Ryan’s interest in running. The coming fights over the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling are ready-made for Ryan and will (re)increase his profile nationally. We still are skeptical that he has the political chops to run a two-year-plus campaign for the Republican nomination, though.
3. Marco Rubio: Rubio’s front-runner status has clearly come into question in the aftermath of his work to pass comprehensive immigration reform through the Senate. The bill’s fate remains decidedly uncertain in the GOP-controlled House and is still not popular among the party’s grass roots. For those who write off Rubio because of immigration, however, go back and watch his speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention. He is someone of considerable political talent.
2. Chris Christie: Yes, Christie has something of a base problem given the false idea that he somehow cost Mitt Romney the 2012 election because of his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy. But Christie’s regular-guy populism is a nice fit for the times.
1. Rand Paul: He’s not a clear front-runner. But, if you are looking for a candidate who can (a) raise the money, (b) has a clear and compelling message and (c) has an obvious edge in an early state (Iowa), then Paul is the only person in the top three who checks all three boxes. We repeat what we said above: Underestimate him at your peril.