Pawlenty was previously seen as Romney's lead challenger, but his status as a serious contender is now in doubt. "Pawlenty's best shot is if everyone above [him] collapses," averred one GOP Insider. "He is running on fumes, but he can still turn it around," said another. "The only story the press likes to write more than the end of a candidacy is the return to life of a candidacy seen as on the edge of defeat," observed one Insider. "That is the good news, but the reality is that's hard to do."
While Bachmann, a three-term congresswoman who was previously best known for her blistering conservative rhetoric, impressed in the CNN debate, many Republican Insiders remain dubious. "She will never be nominated but this is where she fits right now," said one GOP Insider. "She does have an undeniable brand and passion on her side." Echoed another, "She will eventually implode, but for now she is formidable." Added a third, "Bachmann's surge is already starting to hit a philosophical ceiling."
With his record as a popular two-term governor, a sub-cabinet official in the George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations, ambassador to China for President Obama, and a father who is a billionaire industrialist, Huntsman is seen as a credible candidate. His prospects depend on a strong showing in the New Hampshire primary. "Huntsman is ranked [in the top five] because we are assuming that he will fund a significant percentage of his campaign through, at least thru New Hampshire," said one GOP Insider. "He'd have to beat Perry and Romney in New Hampshire," said another." I guess it's possible." But others see him as just a niche candidate. "Not sure about the strategy, but he is appealing to a specific wing of the party in a crowded field--the elitist and moderate wing," demurred one skeptical GOP Insider.
The National Journal Political Insiders Poll is a regular survey of political operatives, strategists, campaign consultants and lobbyists in both parties. Below are the names of the Republican Insiders who are surveyed:
Dan Allen, Stan Anderson, Gary Andres, Saulius (Saul) Anuzis, Rich Ashooh, Whit Ayres, Brett Bader, Mitch Bainwol, Brian Baker, Gary Bauer, David Beckwith, Paul Bennecke, Clark Benson, Wayne Berman, Brian Bieron, Charlie Black, Kirk Blalock, Carmine Boal, Jeff Boeyink, Ron Bonjean, Jeff Buley, Luke Byars, Nick Calio, Al Cardenas, Danny Carroll, Alex Castellanos, Ron Christie, Jim Cicconi, Jonathan Collegio, Rob Collins, Cesar Conda, Jake Corman, Scott Cottington, Jay Cranford, Greg Crist, Diane Crookham-Johnson, Fergus Cullen, Tom Davis, Mike Dennehy, Ken Duberstein, Debi Durham, Sara Fagen, Frank Fahrenkopf, John Feehery, Don Fierce, Mindy Finn, Mindy Fletcher, Carl Forti, Alex Gage, Bruce A. Gates, Sam Geduldig, Adam Geller, Benjamin Ginsberg, David Girard-diCarlo, Bill Greener, Jonathan Grella, Lanny Griffith, Janet Mullins Grissom, Doug Gross, Todd Harris, Steve Hart, Christopher Healy, Ralph Hellmann, Chris Henick, Terry Holt, David Iannelli, Ed Ingle, Jim Innocenzi, Clark Judge, David Keating, David Kensinger, Bob Kjellander, Ed Kutler, Chris LaCivita, Jim Lake, Steven Law, George S. LeMieux, Steve Lombardo, Kevin Madden, Joel Maiola, Gary Maloney, David Marin, Mary Matalin, Dan Mattoon, Brian McCormack, Mark McKinnon, Kyle McSlarrow, Ken Mehlman, Jim Merrill, Lisa Camooso Miller, Tim Morrison, Mike Murphy, Phil Musser, Ron Nehring, Terry Nelson, Neil Newhouse, David Norcross, Ziad Ojakli, Jack Oliver, Todd Olsen, Kevin O'Neill, Connie Partoyan, Dana Perino, Billy Piper, Van B. Poole, Tom Rath, Scott Reed, David Rehr, Tom Reynolds, Steve Roberts, Jason Roe, David Roederer, Dan Schnur, Russ Schriefer, Rich Schwarm, Brent Seaborn, Rick Shelby, Andrew Shore, Kevin Shuvalov, Don Sipple, Ken Spain, Fred Steeper, Bob Stevenson, Terry Sullivan, David Tamasi, Eric Tanenblatt, Richard Temple, Heath Thompson, Jay Timmons, Warren Tompkins, Ted Van Der Meid, Dirk van Dongen, Jan van Lohuizen, Stewart Verdery, Dick Wadhams, John Weaver, Lezlee Westine, Dave Winston, Ginny Wolfe, Fred Wszolek, and Matthew Zablud.