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


Perry's lead in the polls shrinks with every sleepy-eyed debate performance. In the most recent, Perry gave a few odd answers between stifled yawns, especially on college tuition for illegal immigrants. PD wonders if Rick Perry's advisors on immigration are Cheech and Chong, because if he keeps this approach, his campaign will go up in smoke.


Romney's numbers are recovering slowly as he continues to run with the strategy that as long as he doesn't trip, he'll win. It’s a questionable approach, one that hearkens to Thomas Dewey’s “just don’t make a mistake” campaign of 1948. You know, “Dewey defeats Truman.” We aren’t entirely sure, but maybe Romney thinks if he runs his campaign conservatively, he’ll convince voters he is actually is one.


Paul just cracked double digits in a legitimate national poll (Gallup) for the first time in recent memory. Ron Paul also just lost a straw poll (Florida) for the first time in recent memory. His supports continue to insist he’s the only candidate that can fix our problems, and we agree that until now, he’s been about the only consistent candidate in the GOP race. Paul is consistent in his message, consistent in his views, consistently cranky and consistent in polling 7 to 8% on average in national polls.

4 Herman
Cain is surging and building buzz the way Trump and Bachmann did before him. Cain needs to do what neither of them could and build on the momentum of the Florida Straw Poll victory. To do this, Cain has to prove he’s not a thin crust on the issues, rather that he can get deep dish with his ideas on solving problems.


Gingrich hit third in a recent poll (CNN) for the first time and PD thinks his performance in the debates have been the key. But while Gingrich shows in debates he's a political savant, it only magnifies the fact that his personal life is an extended episode of Benny Hill. Still, as one PD editor pointed out, Gingrich would look real good flambéing Joe Biden in a VP debate as the GOP's number two candidate.


The congresswoman's fast and furious decent from her Ames win has her polling just 4% in the new CNN poll. Despite a promising start to her campaign, and her attempt to portray herself as having more gravitas than Tea Party twin Sarah Palin, Bachmann has become Palin redux. It’s so bad, PD is waiting for her to say she can stand on the shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota and see China.
The tale of The Strange Candidacy of Rick Santorum continues, with some fascinating developments in recent weeks. It turns out that like Gingrich, Santorum is also a pretty darned good debater. He's turned in strong performances, including the last, after which some pundits said he came in a close second to Romney. What does all this mean? Two measly points in most national polls, and, given Santorum’s social issue emphasis, not much of a chance to get any stronger. Rick can’t fix the economy if he doesn’t realize it is the problem.
With all due respect to the former Utah governor, he needs to hear this: "Viability has now left the building." Huntsman is polling last among the candidates that have appeared in the majority of the debates -- no, Gary Johnson doesn’t count -- and Huntsman hasn’t made much of an effort to run as a conservative. His mantra has been his appeal to independents, but that does him no good when he's likely to be on a Harley tour next fall when independents actually matter.


  • http://www.pegeen.com Marg Hyland, Founder/Head Designer

    He is moving up! Don’t count Newt out. As a business owner I can say YES, this is a time for change.

    Designer Children’s Wear

  • rjlf

    My fellow Texan, Alaina, and I tried to tell you guys about Perry. I knew the moment he got into a debate people would begin to see just how dumb, self-centered and arrogant he is. Time to come on home Governor Good Hair!

    I am in total agreement with the rankings for the first time EVER. You’re dead on this time.

    As for Santorum Whodat, I don’t think he’s running for VP, I think he is sitting himself up for a political comeback in his home state of Pennsylvania. He’ll probably run for the Senate again or maybe governor. His presidential run is his way of getting exposure. — My opinion.

    • Gary Russell

      Agree about Santorum setting himself up for a statewide office.
      And, he’s doing a pretty good job of it.

    • Rochelle

      Republicans generally pick the next guy in line. I think there is a chance that Santorum is giving himself exposure so that he can get in line. He is really young. By 2016 or 2020 he will be a much better candidate, but this exposure will be good for him. — Sigh, but I like him now, darn it.

      • Alaina

        I still think he’ll be in the back of the line… We have some great Conservatives that will be ready to step up in 2016 and for the next 20 – 30 years…. Pence, Christie, Rubio, Ryan, West, etc.

        • Rob

          Not sure West ever has a chance in hell of achieving higher office. He’s far too aggressive and reactionary. He’d implode within a month or two.

          • Brian H

            I agree with Rob regarding West.

  • Brian H

    I like the rankings and understand the reasoning that supports them, however, I would have handicapped it a bit different.

    Perry – Arrow down – Fading back quickly.

    Romney – Arrow horizontal – Strong steady but has yet to make a decisive move to the front.

    Cain – Arrow Up – 8 links back but climbing.

    Newt- Arrow Up – 9 links back but climbing

    Paul – Arrow horizontal – Has maximized his level of support. Everyone who is with him are probably already on board.

    Santorum – Sideways – 12 off the pace

    Bachmann – 15 off the pace

    Huntsman – Broken leg, pulling up soon.

    Johnson – Walking down the track creating shovel ready projects.

    • Whodat

      I generally never predict things for the same reasons I seldom play blackjack… Just too many variables for me to figure out. But, I am starting to think Santorum is really running for VP at this point. Too far behind to get the funds and following to go big, but he has done good enough to get some good press. He speaks well, is nice looking and happens to be from one of the largest purple states in the union. Johnson, Huntsman and soon, Bachmann, need to declare victory (Libertarians do that at much lower percentages) and get off the stage.

      • Alaina Segovia

        Yeah, but Santorum is only 3rd in the polls in his home state.

  • dw

    Maybe I’m reading too much into the Florida straw poll or perhaps I just don’t have any confidence in a CNN poll. I see Perry as already fading. I’d put Romney back in front, only because Perry has slowed and is fading to a close second. They are followed even more closely by Cain and Paul, in that order. Essentially, all four are grouped close enough that any of them could win. Gringrich has gained some ground and is trying to close the gap, with Santorum about a length behind him. Bachmann and Huntsman are slowing to a trot, enough that Johnson might just catch one of them. All this movement and the race has not even rounded the second turn!

  • Alaina

    Absolutely agree with the rankings as they are now. If Cain continues to capitalize on his victory in Florida, I wouldn’t be surprised to Romney on top and Cain in second with 3rd being a toss up between Paul and Romney.

    • Alaina

      Oops… Paul and Perry.

  • Troy La Mana

    Cain will take over 3rd when you rank next.

    Perry will continue to pummel Romney over the head with his book censorship and supporting Rise to the Top one day and denying that support the very next night. In the process Perry will do the nation a favor and take them both out.

    That Jersey nag is staying in the barn Whodat.

    • Rob

      If Cain takes third it will be a creation of the media, though I guess this isn’t surprising now that they’ve hopped off of the Perry bandwagon.

    • http://www.politicalderby.com/ Jason Wright, Editor

      It’s always dangerous to engage you, Troy. But I’ll take a risk… Are you ignoring the fact that Perry deliberately cut short the full quote from that Romney speech?
      ROMNEY: “But the real answer for me on education is get it back to the states. Get information to the states. Encourage with incentives programs that work like school choice. You know, I think Secretary Duncan has done some good things. He’s the current Secretary of Education. I hope that’s not heresy in the room. He for instance has a program called Race to the Top which encourages schools to have more choice, more testing of kids, more evaluation of teachers. Those are things I think make sense. For me, get that back to the state level.” (Mitt Romney, Remarks, Miami, FL, 9/21/11)”
      We all get that you loathe Romney. But at least base it on facts and not on Perry talking points.

      • Troy La Mana

        OK, so your full quote still says he supports it abet that he wants it on the state level. It still bites him in the butt. It really isn’t a nomination stopper, more like pointing out the usual flip-flop. You can’t deny he censored his own book though.

        • http://www.politicalderby.com/ Jason Wright, Editor

          • FactCheck.org: “Perry falsely claimed Romney had once written that ‘Romneycare’ is ‘exactly what the American people needed.’ Romney never wrote that. On the contrary, he said after he signed the bill that ‘certain aspects’ of the state’s law might work ‘better in some states than others.’”(FactCheck.org, 9/23/11)

          • PolitiFact: “Perry’s right that Romney’s comments about health care were edited between editions. … But Perry exaggerates by making it sound as though Romney had advocated his state’s plan as national health care policy – a potentially damaging position in a Republican primary. That’s not what Romney wrote.” (PolitiFact.com, 9/23/11)

          • Troy La Mana

            What part of “national model” doesn’t apply to the country as a whole?

            • Brian H

              What part of “I will repeal Obamacare on day one” continues to confuse people.

              The anti-Obabcare people have won the argument, every candidate on the stage has committed themselves to ending it. There is one candidate, however, who continues to defend and promote Obamacare. That candidate is Barack Obama. If you are serious that Obamacare is bad and needs to be stopped you will realize that electing any subpar not ready for primetime candidate will only guarantee Obamacare’s future existence.

              • Troy La Mana

                What part of I’ll-do-or-say-anything-to-get-elected that has been the staple of Romney his entire political career don’t you get?

              • dw

                The part that I don’t like about Romney’s approach is using an Executive Order to repeal Obama care. That is no better than how the Dems rammed this one though. I would respect his position a lot more if he had stated he would work with Congress to change/repeal the law.

                This Executive Order nonsense has got to stop.

      • Troy La Mana

        I’m not a fan of Perry either so take it as you will.

  • Whodat

    I’m yawning here. We have the “not-Romney” in first, he having streaked to the top because so many conservatives were not excited by the previous top candidate, but now we are generally looking for a “not-Perry”, having become familiar with the empty-suit-RINO from Texas. Many of us are on our knees praying for the NJ Clydesdale to lead us to the promised land, but who knows what we will learn about him if and when…
    Meanwhile, we have a plethora of niche or boutique ponies who have their faithful. They jockey for the highest single digit, powered more by free debate forums than true support. At the bottom line, whichever of any of these sub-steeds that stumbles across the finish line first, we will all try to elect – just to send the current horses’ a__ to the barn. I’m in.