For GOP: Pawlenty vs. Romney is the Main Event
Bill Kristolthat he now believes that Mitch Daniels, Mike Huckabee and Michelle Bachmann will indeed all declare.
The National Journal simultaneouslythat a Newt Gingrich declaration is imminent.
Haley Barbour is definitely out. Marco Rubio is definitely out.
Mitt Romney is clearly in. Tim Pawlenty is clearly in. Trump incredibly also seems inbound.
Chris Christie, Sarah Palin, and Paul Ryan remain wild cards.
Here's one way to analyze what happens next. I sort the Republican candidates into three piles:
CANDIDATES WHO COULD WIN THE NOMINATION
(Bachmann is too obviously crazy. Daniels will be vetoed by social conservatives. Gingrich won't be able to get past the Nineteenth Amendment. Huckabee will be vetoed by money conservatives. Palin is too much of an all-purpose personal mess. Trump is a flash in the pan.)
CANDIDATES WHO COULD WIN THE ELECTION
(To be precise: a list of candidates not so fatally vulnerable that they would throw away an election that a challenger might otherwise possibly win. That excludes Ryan whose plan is anathema to all but hardcore conservatives. That excludes Christie, whose style will horrify Americans outside the Amtrak corridor. Ditto obviously Bachmann, Gingrich and Palin. Huckabee is telegenic enough that I'm going to venture that he can get past his ideological vulnerabilities. Daniels is smart enough that he can get past his image vulnerabilities. Assuming in both cases that the economy remains soft enough that anyone can win at all.)
CANDIDATES WHO COULD ACTUALLY DO THE JOB OF PRESIDENT
(Basically: the governors, except Palin.)
There are only two names that appear on all three lists: Pawlenty and Romney. My guess is that the race boils down to a battle between the two of them.
Romney's disadvantage in such a fight is Romneycare plus a general odor of insincerity.
Pawlenty's disadvantage? The fact that he'd make an outstanding candidate for premier of a Canadian province.