GOP Presidential Power Rankings

GOP hopefuls will square off tonight for the second time in a week, this time at a debate sponsored by CNN and the Tea Party Express in Tampa, Florida. We’re likely to see fireworks similar to what we saw on Thursday. Rick Perry, who is considered to be the frontrunner, will no doubt be a target again by Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Michele Bachmann join the parade. President Barack Obama is sure to take criticism, and rightly so, over his latest stimulus gimmick.

Before we dive into the power rankings, here is a look at the latest polling in the race.

Rick Perry (even): Perry has become a punching bag for other candidates near the front of the race. Romney is knocking him over Social Security, Paul is taking him to task for being a former Democrat that backed Al Gore and supported HillaryCare and a pro-Bachmann group plans to run ads against him over immigration. Polls indicate that he is still the frontrunner, but he needs to improve in debates and hope at the ramp up attacks don’t stick.

Mitt Romney (even): Romney’s team is running a curious campaign. His economic proposal was panned as a rehash from his failed 2008 bid and he was rightly criticized for protectionist rhetoric. Romney is also taking the interesting position of defending Social Security and pointing out Perry’s perceived hostility towards the program. These are usually the tactics of the Left, but Romney has embraced them. But prominent conservatives have defended Perry and grassroots and tea party groups no doubt don’t like what they’re hearing from Romney, who is saying whatever he has to in order to win the nomination.

Ron Paul (even): Paul probably got a little too attack happy against Perry on Thursday and it came back to bite him. Perry threw back Paul’s 1987 letter of resignation from the GOP, in which Paul knocked Reagan for the large deficits his administration racked up. Just the same, Politico’s Ben Smith believes Paul won the debate due to the exchange. I’m less convinced of that, but Paul did certainly rattle his cage and managed to be part of the takeway from the debate due to the dust up.

Michele Bachmann (down): There is no denying that Bachmann has been marginalized. She has lost top campaign staff recently, including Ed Rollins, and she was barely mentioned in post-debate coverage due to the battles between other candidates. Bachmann’s team has taken notice and she noted over the weekend that she is the “only candidate that’s won anything in this race,” pointing to her victory in the Ames Straw Poll. But a look at the polls and measuring the climate of the GOP tells us that Perry has stolen her thunder.

Newt Gingrich: (even): Gingrich managed to deliver another line criticizing the debate moderators and the media for trying to get GOP candidates to attack each other. But outside of that, he was a non-factor.

Herman Cain (even): Cain fell victim to Bachmann rise as she has to Perry, but he is always good for a good line or two in a debate. Early gaffes and showing his inexperiences cost him greatly.

Rick Santorum (down): Santorum is still polling higher than Huntsman and is not far behind Cain and Gingrich, but the economy is the chief concern among voters and his social conservative message isn’t gaining much attention.

Jon Huntsman (up): Huntsman delivered a very good performance during the debate last week. That plus his very solid, very well received economic plan are good news for his campaign. The bad news is that he is still at the bottom of the polls in the race.

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