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
1

Sarah
Palin

The year 2011 will define Palin, but neither as a Fox News personality, nor as the hostess with the mostest walking us through the wilds of Alaska. No, 2011 will be the year she defines herself as a potential candidate for President of the United States. The you betchya’s and why donchya’s are starting to age like a fine loaf of bread, and six out of 10 Americans say they wouldn’t even consider voting for her. Worse, her year started with the media suggesting she was responsible for the Tucson shootings, then griping that she inserted herself into the story by responding to their accusations. On the other hand, Palin tolerated Kate Gosselin’s company for an entire afternoon, people. An entire afternoon! Don’t count on her taking her ‘prom hair’ back home.

Mitt
Romney

While the media isn’t following him around to see where he buys toilet paper like Palin, Mittens had a pretty solid year, doing the good little soldier bit for the GOP all while applying touch-up to his personality flaws, particularly his penchant for getting a bit prickly when challenged in a debate setting. While Romney hasn’t gotten the love (cough) from the media that Palin has, he’s doing all the things a serious candidate for the Republican nomination should, like trying to spin his biggest anchor, RomneyCare, into something that won’t sink him.

3 Mike
Huckabee

He took a job on Fox News (seems to be a prerequisite for 2012 candidates) and moved to Florida. These moves seemed to indicate he’s not running. Then you look at the polls, which he’s consistently topped or been near the top since Obama took office. Still, the question of whether or not Huckabee will run remains the unanswered question of our time – well, that and how anyone thought giving Joy Behar her own show was a good idea.

Newt
Gingrich
Newt’s friends say he’s serious about running in 2012. His daughter said he’s serious about running in 2012. Newt said he’s serious about running in 2012. Basically, he’s suggested a presidential run about as many times as Brett Favre’s said he’s retiring. But Favre apparently means it this time, so maybe that’s a sign that Newt is ready to come off the bench. Or it could mean he’s had his head bounced off the turf a few too many times over his past personal indiscretions. Whether or not he runs, Newt at least looks like he’s putting the pads on.

Ron
Paul

The Paul family celebrated another of their clan in the hallowed halls of the Capitol with son Rand’s successful bid to become senator from Kentucky. Dr. No and his sidekick are so fiscally conservative that they’re sharing a condo in D.C. Anyone else see the possibilities of a fundraiser disguised as a reality show here? Wire that condo up with a bunch of webcams and charge $3.99 an hour to see the Paul boys streaming live. It may not be as exciting as a condo with a few Kennedys and a case of scotch, but it should make for some interesting viewing. Sorta.
6

Tim
Pawlenty

We’ve been a little hard on T-Paw in the past few editions of the Power Rankings. We’ve called him vanilla ice cream. We said that an appearance on ‘Sesame Street’ would cause a pandemic of narcolepsy among children. We even revealed that he once had a mullet. So our New Year’s resolution is to cut Pawlenty some slack, at least for this round, and try to say something positive. As soon as possible. Deadline: Iowa.
7

Jim
DeMint

Just last month, DeMint said on Fox that he is totally out of the GOP race in 2012. Hey, remember when that Senator-elect Obama guy said in November 2004 that he wouldn’t be a candidate for president in 2008? That’s pretty much where the similarities end, but you get the point. DeMint has super conservative cred, and he’s a darling of the Tea Party. He’s from the south and has helped the GOP maintain a united front against the Obama administration. DeMint has also repeatedly praised Sarah Palin, including comparing her to St. Ronald Reagan, so does that mean he won’t run against her?
Rick
Santorum
Make no mistake, Rick Santa … Santini … Santana … whatever, the dude’s running for president. In the past year and a half, he’s made seven trips each to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. That could just mean he likes corn, maple syrup and barbecue, but let’s be serious here. Santorum is undoubtedly a major underdog here, and in the past he’s been all about the social issues, which have been stuck on the backburner since the economy tanked. Seems he’s banking on a recovery, but if that happens, is there any Republican who can beat an incumbent?
9 Mike
Pence
Quick history quiz! Name the last sitting member of the House to be elected president? The last, and only, was James Garfield of Ohio. But even then, before he was a rep, he was governor of the Buckeye State. That doesn’t preclude Pence, one of the nation’s most respected fiscal conservatives, from making a run. But lately it looks like Pence realizes he has about a good a shot at winning the nomination as Mike Gravel has of beating Obama in ’12, because the rumor mill says he could run for governor of Indiana, which could set him up quite nicely in 2016.
54

Donald
Trump

Yes, we know we’ve ranked him 54. And yes, we mean it. He of the kajillion dollar comb-over has made noise about running, and maybe he will. But Trump running for the nomination generates about as much excitement as the guy who ran for governor of New York under the banner of ‘The Rent is Too Damn High’ party. Don’t plan on voters telling him, “You’re hired.”