Welcome to the latest edition of PoliticalDerby.com's 2012 Power Rankings, the original tracking service of the race for the White House. The rankings are updated as circumstances warrant and are compiled by our Editors using wire reports, polls, campaign staffer scuttlebutt and confidential tips. The rankings may not be reprinted or quoted in any form without attribution to PoliticalDerby.com.

The GOP Horses
Power Ranking The Horse Momentum The Tip Sheet


In just a matter of weeks, the Texas governor has gone from an unannounced, hypothetical horse to the frontrunner. Perry's bounced so high, he's been offered an endorsement deal with the fabric softener. He's got the looks and Texas swagger that has many conservatives swooning, but can you hear the whispers in the Lone Star State that his conservative creds aren't all they seem? Today he's in the lead, even after an uneven debate performance, but the next few weeks will tell us if he's really the jogger or the unlucky coyote.


For the first time since the end of 2008, Romney is no longer in the top spot. Will his strategy of going "all in" to win New Hampshire pay off, or will Romney's chapter in the history's presidential campaign textbook come right after "The Great '08 Collapse of Fred Thompson" and "Rudy Giuliani Busts in the Sunshine State?" Perhaps the better questions are these: Does Romney actually look more comfortable drafting Perry than leading him? Is he secretly donating to Bachmann's campaign?


This is the highest Ron Paul has been ranked in the six-year history of the Power Rankings. Take a deep breath, Paul haters, and acknowledge out loud that the good doctor is currently third in the RCP national averages ahead of Bachmann, Gingrich, etc. Everyone knows the key for Paul will be to buck the trend of straw poll wins and money bombs and actually produce votes that count in a caucus or primary.

Bachmann has faded from an impressive victory at Ames to the middle of the pack. Her buzz-worthy news-cycle has vanished faster than a Solyndra loan. She was a no–show in the Reagan Presidential Library debate but feisty in the first Florida debate. Can she stall the slide on a muddy track? Without a quick turnaround, she's likely to be best remembered for promising $2 gas when everyone knows Taco Bell offers the same thing for only a buck.


Cain is establishing himself as the top lower-tier candidate, polling ahead of the likes of Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and Jon Huntsman in the early primaries. He's had Jekyll and Hyde debate performance, peddling his “9-9-9” tax plan, but at times sounding confused on other issues. It's still a long road for the "Godfather of Pizza" to have any sniff at the nomination, but with his Tea Party ties and strong business background, Cain could find himself in the VP discussion, serving as the breadsticks to the eventual deep dish nominee.


If the nomination was all about debate performance, Newt would be Secretariat, Seabiscuit and Smarty Jones all wrapped up in one super-horse package. But since his campaign staff is probably being run by college interns, he looks more suited for the glue factory than the winners circle. We've occasionally channeled John McCain's Lazarus-like rise from a trouble campaign to the 2008 nominee. But it ain't happening this time. Can you say, Secretary of State or Chief-of-Staff?
On paper, Santorum isn't a great candidate. In reality, he's even worse. He only avoids the back of the track because at least he's still got a following of social conservatives in Iowa and has produced a handful of shining moments in the early debates. PD suggests he has an outside chance of a respectable finish in Iowa, if he can marshal up enough social conservatives who disagree with the rest of the planet that this election is all about the economy.
Huntsman's national polling average is 1.5%. If an actual horse stood on a bale of hay and announced a campaign for the nomination, he would poll higher. The former Utah governor's invisibility in this race and inability to find traction is something historians will likely examine for years to come. After all, he has everything Republicans are looking for, except any semblance of being one.


  • Promise Kept

    The Texas GOP cancelled it’s Straw Poll event, because the, “lack of participants would severely hamper the party’s ability to ensure attendance and make it impossible to safeguard against a financial loss on the event.”

    Obviously, they didn’t see the need to exploit Rick Perry huge advantage over the other, less qualified candidates like that other Texan,… oh, what’s his name,… you know, the one with the same initials.

    “The Texans said other factors in their decision included ‘recent press reports that Florida was not receiving as much interest in its fifth presidential straw poll as expected and an announcement from the Romney campaign that they would not be participating in straw polls.’”

  • Whodat

    Will somebody pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeese get Chuck Christi on the phone?

  • VA Gael

    Gary Russell – To answer you, I honestly don’t know how I would vote on that ticket right now, but I know I would be more likely to vote Republican with a different candidate.

  • Brian H

    This is a match race now.

  • Troy La Mana

    I agree with the rankings and Alaina’s take on Perry and Paul. I see both Perry and Romney starting to slip and think the voters will turn to other candidates as the weeks progress. I feel this will only help Cain as his slow and steady rise has the mark of a successful campaign. I would bet Cain takes over the 4th or 3rd position when you next update the rankings depending on how long Paul can hang on.

    • Promise Kept

      According to Market Watch, you shouldn’t be counting on, “how long Paul can hang on”, Troy. I would offer hope that one others might make Cain look better for a little while, but only slightly.


      • Troy La Mana

        Just ignore it like the MSN does with every poll with Paul in it. At least Jason is starting to come around to the possibility of him being a “viable” candidate.

  • Alaina Segovia

    I think the order is dead on and lover the humor!
    I would actually put Perry’s arrow down after the last debate. He got slaughtered and looked like it afterwards. His stance on illegal immigration looked (and as a Texan, I can say it is) exceedingly weak. Plus, he got pretty beat up on jobs… Romney’s comment about the foundation being in place when he took office (which is accurate) and Paul’s comments about taxes doubling, the debt tripling and the addition of 1,700 government jobs.
    The only other change I might make is Paul’s arrow to neutral. His polls seem pretty steady and I don’t see a significant number of new people flocking to his side.

  • VA Gael

    I believe your calculations are right on, but I do hope people will listen to what Jon Huntsman says when he outlines the characteristics of the Republican candidate that can win. If the Republican party is after the independent voter, which is too large a segment to ignore considering it swung the last election, a candidate like Perry won’t make the grade. I am an independent voter and communicate quite a bit with independent voters, and we are not impressed either by Perry’s Texas swagger or Bachmann’s aggression. I suspect a poll of independents would have those two in the bottom slots. We really would like to have a serious choice in 2012.

    • Gary Russell

      If the choice is Perry v. Obama, how will you vote?

  • Whodat

    Good piece! Funny, but right on target.
    Perhaps you should have stressed “distant third” in Paul’s case, but 3rd nonetheless. Michelle has done herself proud and raised good points – as has Herman Cain, but it might be time for them to find other ways to help the cause. The only one I despise is Huntsman – much more Dem than us and should be uninvited to all future debates.

  • Gary Russell

    I agree – very accurate (and entertaining) ratings.
    Although this is definitely looking like a two-horse race, we have quite a bit of talent (and diversity) waiting in the wings should either Perry or Romney stumble.
    P.S. Any good Southern boy knows that it the unnamed horse would be standing on a “bale” of hay when he announced!

  • Brian H

    The Power Ranking look great. I miss seeing the ol’ horses and the arrows. Great job!

    I agree with your assessment. The PD editors have to approach the race from a pure handicapping perspective and I believe they have done just that. It is not about who we wan’t but who is in the lead at any given moment. The arrows remind us of this.

    ps…Seabiscuit is one word. I know, I bought the movie. :)

    “she’s likely to be best remembered for promising $2 gas when everyone knows Taco Bell offers the same thing for only a buck.”

    Great line!! When did Leno’s writers join the editing team?

    • Promise Kept

      It’s always a good day when Brian and I can see eye to eye. The only part I thought may be missing on Romney’s analysis would be his power-team yoking up with the mighty T-Paw, but maybe that is covered by his sideways arrows. :-)

      I bought Seabiscuit movie first, and then the book after learning of the author’s own struggles in real life paralleled the story she wrote.

  • http://scottslant.blogspot.com/ Scott A. Robinson

    Perry’s momentum is up since the last iteration of the rankings, but I’d argue he’s currently flat after the last debate performance. And where did the Bachmann and Gingrich picture come from? 10 years ago?