This is the scrutiny quarter as far as the primary is concerned, and no one will face harsher glares than Hillary Rodham Clinton.
(By the way, we're not going to rank Dennis Kucinich or Mike Gravel anymore.)
These rankings are ordered by likelihood of winning the Democratic Party primary and are based on a number of factors, including organization, money, buzz and polling. Click here for Republican rankings
1. Hillary Clinton -- Is this her false peak? Or maybe this is the real peak, and the rest of the campaign will be about protecting her lead -- playing "four corners" offense, if you will. Her presidential evasiveness may be a sign of overconfidence; it's inconceivable that she won't one day be pinned down on entitlement reform. Her laugh tick is getting noticed, but it's endearing in a way.
2. Barack Obama -- Two days after a sickly performance in an important debate, he was greeted by 24,000 people in New York City. His candidacy is being sustained by a fat bankroll and intense curiosity, but his advisers need to admit that a movement is not yet... moving. He jabbed at Clinton's 1993 health reform secrecy, but he inexplicably refused to make a point of it, refused to make a contrast cleanly, and doesn't seem to feel the need to raise his volume above "subtle."
3. John Edwards -- Whoever is delivering these Fortress Investment Group oppo dumps (see South Carolina a few weeks back and the Des Moines Register the day after the debate), is landing real stomach punches against Edwards and setting up future attack ads via TV or mail. We think his campaign may have overreacted to the prospect of a poor fundraising quarter by pulling the trigger on public financing the day after a breakthrough debate performance. Everyone interprets the move as a sign of weakness, not strength.
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