1. -- Rudy Giuliani -- Giuliani is the principal beneficiary from the rise of Mike Huckabee, with whom he seems to have signed a nonaggression pact. But what a nightmare week he had otherwise. So far, the media hasn't found anything, BUT primary voters are being reminded that Giuliani had an extramarital affair a few years ago -- not decades ago, but in this century. The expense story seemed to wake up the NYC press corps to begin re-reporting "gotcha" stories from five years ago. Will this keep Giuliani on the defensive for a while, or willit fade? Will something else trump it? Meanwhile, Iowa is working out about as well as the campaign could hope for, but Giuliani still needs to pop in an early state. New Hampshire is the place, and Romney losing in Iowa is the opening.
2. Mitt Romney -- This is make-or-break time for everyone, but perhaps no candidate has more pressure on him than Romney, since he's more reliant on an early state strategy than the others. This week, he has a chance to either get the Mormon issue behind him once and for all, or see the dream of the presidency fade away. In some ways, Thursday's speech is a layup for Romney because the mainstream press will be impressed simply by him giving it. But the target audience isn't the MSM, it's evangelicals. What will James Dobson say? What will Rick Warren say? What will key undecided pastors in South Carolina say?
3. Mike Huckabee -- The Iowa press is giving him a free pass, but the national press is starting to scrutinize him. The thing Huckabee needs to prove between now and the end of the month is his viability beyond Iowa. Will his momentum start showing up in New Hampshire polls?
4. John McCain -- A sudden rise for McCain in New Hampshire is not out of the question, given Romney's problems. No analysts have been more pessimistic about McCain's plan for the nomination than we have been. But maybe we shouldn't be so pessimistic. With the Union Leader endorsement in hand, Huckabee on the rise in Iowa and Giuliani under fire with the NYC tabloids, why not McCain? The "last man standing" plan seemed ridiculous six months ago. Now? Not so much.
Continue reading our 2008 Republican race rankings.
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