The latest shuffling of GOP presidential contenders has produced another round of signs that Republicans wish they had another candidate, in the form of renewed speculation about Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Rick Perry. I’d take the prospect of a Perry candidacy very seriously. Christie and Ryan — not so much.

These types of rumors are basically a function of the way the process works. There are three years of “invisible” primary, during which very few public events occur, but during which a lot of the behind-the-scenes jockeying takes place. That leaves reporters and commentators needing to pay attention to a very important process, but with very little to say. So every rumor gets inflated.

This process has in fact been going on since fall 2008, and any candidate who began now from a standing start would be at a tremendous disadvantage. In my view, both Christie and Ryan would be in that category; I find it very hard to believe they could secure the resources (money, endorsements, staff, and others) need to seriously contest the race. Candidates already half-in (Sarah Palin and Mitch Daniels) are in better shape, as are those who clearly are in a position to jump in running. The only two who qualify on that score are Jeb Bush and Rick Perry.

Why Perry? As Texas governor, he would have rapid access to the kind of money it takes to compete seriously. And while there’s no guarantee that he would inherit the Bush network in Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early states, as well as the national Republican network, he would almost certainly have a bit more of a head start than any other late entrant.

It’s amazing how quickly someone who looks good from afar can wilt once he or she becomes an active presidential candidate. I suspect that would apply to Ryan and Christie, if they joined the field. The same logic, of course, works against Daniels and Perry, both of them, and especially Perry, are better positioned to compete seriously for the nomination. Indeed, Nate Silver tweeted this afternoon that if he ran, Perry might be the favorite. At the very least I think he’d be a solid contender.

UPDATE: Because of a technical problem, we had to remove all the links in this post.