White House 2008 Rankings: The Republicans

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

In our opinion, Rudy Giuliani had the best July, followed closely by Mitt Romney.

(These will be our last rankings for a month, not because we don't like to write them, but because we want to pause for a month and revisit the race after Labor Day, when a restart is inevitable.)

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 Democraticrankings.

1. Rudy Giuliani -- John McCain's campaign collapsed and is slowly rebuilding; Fred Thompson froze in place. These events bought Rudy time to get his organization going. As McCain was floundering, Giuliani was rolling out dozens of Iowa endorsements: legislators, entrepreneurs, county chairs. He's beginning to campaign like a real presidential candidate, spending two full days on small events in Iowa. Without much attention, he's busily rolling out a detailed policy agenda. For the first time, Rudy's campaign feels as if it is on the right track. Plus, he never lost his national front-runner status and still polls best against Clinton/Obama, which will matter more to GOP primary voters than some believe.

2. Mitt Romney -- He's still number two, but a day doesn't go by without us noticing something innovative and savvy about his campaign. Because he can write his own check, he'll face less of a time crunch over the next few months than his rivals. The campaign has an ambitious budget and Romney is willing to spend his own money to meet projections, even if his fundraising begins to dry up. He's worked aggressively to sew up endorsements in the McCain-Thompson gap, and we'll know by Labor Day whether it has paid off. That said, the lack of progress in South Carolina compared to Iowa and New Hampshire has to scare the campaign a bit.

3. Fred Thompson -- His campaign is not in chaos. Jeri Thompson is in control. But his margin for error is less than it once was. Thompson needs to find a way to resolve his optics problem. He is on the verge of failing to meet the prodigious (and unfair) expectations placed upon him. Announcing in prime time (i.e. after Labor Day) means he will get a lot of attention, so everything will be magnified -- the good and the bad. Thompson folks hate the Wesley Clark comparisons, but if we were Thompson, we'd make a call to Clark and just, well, chat.

Continue reading our Republican rankings.