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With Obama Vulnerable, Republicans Jockey in the Starting Gates

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

It has been a busy week in presidential politics. With Barack Obama gaining only a minimal boost from the slaying of Osama Bin Laden, it is now obvious to Republicans considering a run that he is vulnerable.

Republicans have a crowded field, but an impressive group of candidates. Here is our ranking of their prospects and the latest news.

We believe that if he chooses to run, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee is the odds on favorite to win the Republican nomination. Huckabee has been quiet, but some impressive reports have surfaced.

First, it is reported that if he runs, Ronald Reagan's confident and 1984 campaign manager, Ed Rollins, has signed on as manager and chief strategist. Huckabee, who came in second to John McCain four years ago after winning the Iowa caucuses, will be well served by an experienced manager like Rollins. Rollins has eluded that he has a team of experienced people on standby for Governor Huckabee.

Also this week, the new website went online. On the website Governor Huckabee sounds more like a candidate saying, "When I look across America, I see a country looking for answers. The challenges facing our nation are monumental, and I see difficult days ahead. I am seeking God's will concerning the role He wants me to play in His plan for America."

Huckabee still has a standout organization in Iowa, but it gets thin as you move later in the primary field. If he doesn't move soon time will run out on the clock.

Next up is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. If Huckabee doesn't run, Romney goes to first position and is the next likeliest nominee. Romney, who has changed positions on gay marriage (once for, now against), abortion (once for, now against), spent the week changing his position on healthcare. As Governor, he signed a healthcare plan similar to Obamacare that is bankrupting the state government in the "Bay State."

Romney has again pulled a 180 degree turn writing in USA Today, "If I am elected president, I will issue on my first day in office an executive order paving the way for waivers from ObamaCare for all 50 states. Subsequently, I will call on Congress to fully repeal ObamaCare." It is enough to make your head spin.

As the Wall Street Journal editorialized, "Mr. Romney now claims ObamaCare should be repealed, but his failure to explain his own role or admit any errors suggests serious flaws both in his candidacy and as a potential President."

Beyond Romney and Huckabee the picture fades quickly as to a likely nominee. All the remaining candidates are dark horse or long shot candidates. Here is the latest word.

Former Governor Sarah Palin: News is quiet from up north. She has brought on some talented political people such as old Bob Dole hand, Michael Glassner, but beyond some kick butt speeches she gives at Tea Party rallies and Facebook postings, she hasn't been out building a ground game.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich: Newt is always full of surprises. He is smart, has good name recognition and is more active organizationally. Newt's problem is the lingering effect of old personal problems. He has worked hard to put this baggage in the past, but Republican primary voters are more religious and less forgiving than the general population. His hidden strength is that he will be the only Southerner if Huckabee doesn't run. The South rules the GOP primary calendar after Iowa and New Hampshire.

Finally, we believe the only other dark horse to watch is moderate Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels. He is a favorite of the old Bush crowd. Daniels was a loyal part of the Bush team, working for him in Washington. Daniels will be well funded if he runs, and the Washington DC based GOP establishment would likely rally to his cause.

Daniels problems are weak name identification, and the needless fight he picked with social conservatives. Last June he told the Weekly Standard , "we face a 'genuine national emergency' regarding the budget and that 'maybe these things could be set aside for a while. But this doesn't mean anybody abandons their position at all. Everybody just stands down for a little while, while we try to save the republic.'"

This next year will be full of intrigue as this group of quality candidates jockey for position.

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