Matt Towery

The line about looking thin by hanging out with fat people is Rodney Dangerfield's. To apply his comic wisdom to the presidential race, just look at the fat guys as the ones who started their campaigns too soon, and their skinny compatriots as those who waited until America started giving a hoot about presidential politics.

The Republicans remain the underdog in the 2008 White House sweepstakes, but not by a lot. A new InsiderAdvantage national survey of over 1000 registered voters found that Americans want for their next president "a Democrat" more than "a Republican," but only by 45 percent to 43 percent. (No candidates' names were offered; only generic party identification.) Details of the poll can be found at

That's the surprising good news for the GOP. The bad news is that some of the party's big-name candidates may have goofed by jumping so early into a crowded field of Republican candidates. Money is the main reason.

John McCain was down to just a couple of million dollars cash-on-hand in his latest campaign finance disclosure. That's peanuts these days. Mitt Romney is said to be planning to dip into his own vast wealth to subsidize his campaign.

McCain, Romney and other candidates sprinted out of the gate of this presidential marathon based on the traditional notion that winning early caucuses and primaries in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina would be the key to victory.

Now they're realizing their task is much bigger -- and more expensive. They've got to try to win big blocs of delegates in 20 or so sizable states, and all by Valentine's Day. That means a broken heart for more than one Republican seeking to court the American voter.

Months ago I said Newt Gingrich must jump into the race by midsummer -- about now -- if he wanted to have a chance to win the Republican nomination. Now former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson may have already filled the void among the GOP field that Gingrich could have.

But credit Gingrich with having seen as early as last year that too many candidates would start campaigning too quickly, and that they would hemorrhage big money just as quickly.

So now it's a question of the practicalities of sustaining a campaign, rather than of splitting hairs over policy differences among the Republican candidates. Who can actually win election primaries?

For now, it's Thompson who appears to be the man who looks "thin" by hanging out with "fat people." Thompson is expected to officially launch his campaign next week with big fundraisers in key cities.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery