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In this edition: one pundit’s serious candidate is another pundit’s long-shot flake.


The field of candidates fighting for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination is mostly settled — if it were made out of Jell-O, we would almost be ready to take it out of the fridge. Accordingly, the debate has pretty much moved past the “who will run” question (except for Rick Perry and Sarah Palin). But we’re not ready to answer the “who will win” question. First, the question of “who can win” must be asked, and no one seems to agree on an answer.

Going against the conventional wisdom, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait has argued that the campaign of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, is doomed to fail, mortally wounded by “Romneycare.” But, in part because of FiveThirtyEight’s analysis, Mr. Chait upgraded Mitt Romney’s campaign from “dead” to “mostly dead.” (Even if you don’t care about Mr. Romney’s electoral pulse, Mr. Chait’s post is still worth visiting if for no other reason than that it includes a clip of the Billy Crystal scene from The Princess Bride).

Mr. Chait notwithstanding, there is general agreement that Mr. Romney can win. The same cannot be said about Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. FiveThirtyEight ranked her as one of the top four contenders for the nomination. But that ranking didn’t sit well with a bar patron in the beginning of a great article in The New Yorker by John Cassidy that looks at Ms. Bachmann’s candidacy.

Disagreement has also been rife over the chances of the former Minnesota governor, Tim Pawlenty. After a poor showing in the The Des Moines Register’s first poll of the cycle, some analysts moved Mr. Pawlenty down into the second tier of Republican candidates. Nate, however, cautioned against putting too much stock into that first poll. Slate’s David Weigel concurred.

Perhaps the greatest discord is over the prospects of Jon M. Huntsman Jr., former governor of Utah. The great Huntsman debate of 2011 has been raging for weeks. Is he a top-tier contender? Is he conservative enough to win over G.O.P. primary voters? No and no were the answers from Nate. Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis came down on Nate’s side of the fence.

But straddling that fence was Politico, buying into the Huntsman hype, then mocking it.

And finally, Nate already talked about the reaction to his article contrasting the leadership styles of President Obama and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York. Specifically, Nate addressed some criticisms of the post made by Matt Yglesias, the blogger for Think Progress. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein said he “lines up most directly” with Mr. Yglesias. Mr. Klein wrote, “In the end, major social change can be accelerated by political skill and delayed by political ineptitude. But whether it happens or not is rarely a story that governors or presidents ultimately control.”


At The New Republic, Alex Klein dissects the political futures market Intrade and finds some major flaws.

This Sunday’s issue of The New York Times Magazine has a beautiful graphic showing how often the Major League Baseball team with the highest payroll wins the World Series.

The Post’s Ezra Klein put together an eye-opening post on what would happen to the nation’s balance sheet if Congress took a 40-year vacation.

Micah Cohen is FiveThirtyEight’s former managing editor.