The Corner

McCain & the Field

Chris Cillizza’s analysis:

With McCain’s candidacy now largely marginalized, the top tier looks to be composed of former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-Mass.), who ascended to number one in The Fix’s most recent Friday presidential Line, former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Thompson, a McCain ally during their time in the Senate, has largely focused on his conservative credentials in the runup to his all-but-certain presidential bid. Now Thompson could capture voters who were attracted to McCain’s maverick image but worried about his ability to win.

Giuliani, who is by far the most moderate candidate in the field, now likely has a chance to consolidate that wing of the party behind his candidacy. For all of McCain’s emphasis on his conservative bona fides, he remains most popular among liberals and moderate Republicans, who comprise, by the way, a significant number of potential voters.

Romney continues to sit in the cat bird’s seat for the nomination. Romney has built the strongest Iowa organization and if McCain is reduced to second tier status in the contest, Romney’s chances in the New Hampshire primary will rise. If Romney can emerge victorious in Iowa and New Hampshire, he will be extremely hard to beat.

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