... (his) take on where these candidates sit in the race today. My long-term prognostication remains -- I think Obama will win this all by the time votes are counted. But what do I know?
Last month's rankings: 1) Obama, 2) Edwards, 3) Clinton, 4) Richardson, 5) Clark, 6) Kerry, and then everyone else.
THE TOP TIER
1. Hillary Clinton
Her announcement rollout was masterful. She leads in the national polls which, while not indicative of much, is helpful for fundraising and media buzz purposes. She leads all early New Hampshire polls and several of the Iowa ones (though numbers are all over the place suggesting that no one knows how to poll these early states, this far out).
Iraq is already giving her fits, and will present a long-term problem for her campaign. But for now, most people are blissfully unaware of her Iraq record.
2. Barack Obama
He has parried off the early attacks skillfully and is getting a great deal of traction on Iraq. He's drawing thousands to his rallies, hinting at a Dean-like popular phenomenon in the makings. He's got huge support in the Facebook world, and is he's neck and neck with Edwards in the Daily Kos straw poll showing strong and growing netroots support.
Oh, and the money will be there. Lots of it.
3. John Edwards
Boy, that blogger stuff wasn't his campaign's finest hour. They betrayed a lack of preparation, foresight, and basic vetting. They were pushed into "bunker" mode by the rantings of Bill Donahue, giving little confidence they'd be able to withstand a serious attack from the VRWC. Then, the campaign leaked like a sieve -- were the bloggers fired or not? Then, the campaign did the right thing and held tight on the bloggers, but didn't tell them they shouldn't blog elsewhere. A couple of days later, the bloggers resign anyway, giving the right wingers a scalp.
The good thing is that this happened so early that it won't register as even a blip in a few months. And hopefully the campaign learned some good lessons out of this.
Otherwise, the Edwards campaign appears to have been overshadowed by the battle of titans between Hillary and Barack. It's not a bad thing for Edwards to see the two front runners beat the shit out of each other while he safely stays out of the fray.
THE SECOND TIER
4. Bill Richardson
Put aside his hokey desire to have the candidates make a pledge to campaign only positively (those things never survive the heat of battle), Richardson is quietly building up support and raising money. In the dKos straw poll, he's the only candidate to gain every one of the last five polls. (Of course, when you start at 1 percent, that's easier to do...)
Of all the announced candidates, Richardson has the greatest potential to break into the top tier.
5. Tom Vilsack
Coming out in favor of social security price indexing was rather odd for a Democratic candidate.
But he's the former governor of Iowa, so that might count for something.
6. Joe Biden
His announcement week was a nightmare.
7. Chris Dodd
His remarks at the DNC and AFSCME cattle calls were generally well received.
8. Dennis Kucinich
9. Mike Gravel
I'm not sure what Gravel thinks he's bringing to the table that isn't being covered by other, viable candidates.
10. Wesley Clark
He's not even in the race, has no operation, and his public profile is fading as the rest of the field takes center stage. This is the last time I include him in either the straw poll or cattle call unless he announces. He's bleeding support in the Daily Kos straw poll as people lose interest and move to other candidates. Given that his big mistake in 2003 was waiting too long before entering the race, it's crazy to think that he's going to make the same mistake again (and the race is definitely accelerated this year). So I'm starting to assume he's not going to run.
Some of this I agree with wholeheartedly, some -- as with his dismissal of Kucinich -- is just typically arrogant Kos. I'm not as certain as he that Obama will be the nominee as I write today. Biden ought to be the first one to drop out, even ahead of Gravel. Vilsack will quit after his home state loss and endorse Hillary (surprise). Update (10 am): LOL --or maybe a bit sooner.
At this point I don't know what General Clark could be waiting for, either.
Update II (3 pm): Chris Cillizza's line is nearly identical. He places Dodd in fifth, and ranks the Repubs McCain, Guiliani/Romney tied for second, then Brownback and Huckabee.
Update III (4 pm): Kos explains his "ugh".