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.