Circling the White House

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By Charlie Cook
Sunday, May 7, 2006

Republicans

John McCain : Solidifying his front-runner status despite mistrust of him in conservative and GOP establishment circles. The worse President Bush does, the more desperate Republicans become, and the more likely they will turn to their own "change" candidate. Plus, he keeps beating Hillary Clinton in polls. Is the train pulling out of the station?

Rudy Giuliani : Great mayor, great orator, great leader on 9/11. But a pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights candidate won't win this GOP's nomination. Probably won't even run.

Newt Gingrich : Counted out in Washington, gets rave reviews outside the Beltway on the Lincoln Day circuit. Fresh ideas, big themes, untainted by current mess in Congress, underrated candidate but still a long shot for the nomination.

Bill Frist : Has the national platform and exposure to launch a strong campaign, but lacks the communication skills and political instincts to capitalize on it. Going nowhere.

Mitt Romney : Probably the brightest and most talented candidate in the GOP field, boosted by recent passage of universal health care in Massachusetts. Mormon faith could be an asset in that it offers a network of potential supporters and donors, and a liability in that some conservative religious leaders either don't consider Mormons "true Christians," or regard the fastest-growing religion in small-town America as a threat.

George Allen : Despite lack of national recognition, is an early co-front-runner for the GOP nomination among party insiders. But is this Reagan/Bush 43 hybrid hurt by being too much like the current president? Is he too much of a status-quo candidate who might not stand up as well against Hillary as McCain?

George Pataki : Has never impressed many Republicans west of the Hudson. Smart but an ineffective communicator, and hard-pressed to adjust his centrist record rightward. Extremely unlikely to be nominated.

Mike Huckabee : Effective speaker, good crossover appeal, has a conservative and values-oriented base and background (he's a Baptist minister). But can he build off the dieting schtick and can he raise money?

Chuck Hagel : Impressive, an independent like McCain though more skeptical on Iraq -- but is there room for two mavericks in the same primary? Definitely a real comer in the party. May not run this time but is worth watching for the future.

Sam Brownback : The moral-values candidate, in the tradition of Pat Robertson, Gary Bauer and Alan Keyes. Conservative support could give the Kansas senator longevity in a crowded field.


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