2008 Race Rankings: The Republicans

Each week, NBC News political director Chuck "Chuck" Todd and I present our rankings on the likely order of finish for the presidential candidates.

There's still no number one in our rankings. No one deserves the front-runner label, and our top three all have a plausible chance at the nomination. The ramifications of the John McCain campaign meltdown might not be evident for a while. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised, after a few weeks, to see his numbers bump up a little in New Hampshire.

These rankings are ordered by likelihood of winning the Republican primary and are based on a number of factors, including organization, money, buzz and polling. Click here for Democratic rankings.

1. No One -- Blank (for now).

2. (tie) Rudy Giuliani -- The day McCain's brain trust resigned, Giuliani announced the addition of Southwest Iowa field staffers. He's finally staffing up, finally focusing on endorsements in the early states, and is catching up to Romney on the organization front in some of the bigger Feb. 5 states. One sign that the campaign isn't adept at or interested in building crowds at the moment: Elizabeth Edwards at one point outdrew him in New Hampshire last week. But with terrorism front and center this summer, though, Giuliani has a natural message hook.

3. (tie) Mitt Romney -- That's some burn rate, mister! Romney really needs Fred Thompson to start campaigning in the early primary states, or else face the risk that the other top-tier candidates will abandon them entirely and let Romney win them easily. His victories will matter only if they're real victories over a competitive field in January. Note his campaign's greater use of Ann Romney as a not-so subtle contrast with Judith Nathan and Jeri Thompson. Spending aside, this campaign is about as technically competent as a campaign can be, and even the skeptical press corps is beginning to view Romney as a plausible nominee.

3. Fred Thompson -- Last Ranking: 2 -- The media and the conservative elite are running out of patience. Just get in already -- or announce an exact date. McCain's seeming collapse is an opportunity to strike now; waiting could bring regrets. A campaign cannot run on fumes, nor can it run on a weekly Sean Hannity armpit snuggle. The longer Thompson waits, the more likely the story becomes the waiting rather than the candidate.

Continue reading our race rankings.