By my count, 24 people benefit from nontrivial presidential buzz: Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, John Thune, Tim Pawlenty, Mitch Daniels, Mike Pence, Rick Santorum, Haley Barbour, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, David Petraeus, Ron Paul, Jeb Bush, John Bolton, Bob McDonnell, Jim DeMint, Chris Christie, Herman Cain, Gary Johnson, Judd Gregg, Marco Rubio and Rick Perry.
There can be only one! ~ cheezy Highlander reference
Barbour, perhaps the sharpest political operator with a natural Southern constituency in a Southern-dominated party, could be a front-runner (and a hilarious, adept debate opponent for Obama), but his plans remain murky.
Despite his bone-headed comment this week, which I think was benign, and not proof of racism, nor something that should convince anyone except those already convinced Republicans are evil... I'm hoping Barbour makes a go of it.
Also, there's growing buzz that Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and a fierce defender of his top-tier contender status, may not run because he's got a big new contract with Fox News in the works.
I would be disappointed if Huckabee didn't give it another try.
That leaves us with a top tier of five front-runners: Romney, Palin, Gingrich, Pawlenty and Daniels. Romney is the organizational front-runner; Daniels is the first pick of wonks and DC eggheads; Palin probably has the most devoted following among actual voters; Gingrich will dominate the debates, and Pawlenty (vying with Daniels) is the least disliked.
I like Daniels.