Wild speculations about such a list? Well, that's very different; that's what every
That said, let's go! After all, it's only about fourteen months to the Iowa Caucuses.
The first thing that I think these sorts of things should do is eliminate the impossible, or at least the highly improbable, dreams. Two categories, here: those candidates who do not meet conventional criteria for a plausible run for the White House, and those candidates who are essentially disqualified by a position on the issues that runs up against a party faction with veto power.
I don't see any pro-choice picks on either list, so I don't think any of the candidates fails the latter test. There is no precedent under current conditions for a Member of the House, or a former Member who achieved no other high office, to win a presidential nomination. That suggests Mike Pence (#4 on David S. Bernstein's list, #8 per National Journal), Newt Gingrich (DSB #22, NJ #7), Paul Ryan (DSB #23), and Ron Paul (NJ #15, sort of) are highly unlikely to win.
I'm a little less confident of the next category, but once again there's really no precedent for someone to jump from achieving statewide office in the midterms to winning a nomination. Impossible? As with the Members of the House, no. But highly improbable? Yup. So I'd eliminate Rand Paul (NJ #15, sort of), Marco Rubio (DSB #12, NJ fifth on the unnumbered also-rans list, so #20), John Kasich (DSB #10 (!)), and Pat Toomey (DSB #14).
Going back to issue disqualifications...David put local (for him) hero Scott Brown at #24. Hey, if you insist on going to 25, you'll get some oddball picks, but Brown's voting record has been very moderate; there's no chance he's going to win the nomination. Libertarian Gary Johnson (NJ #17) is clearly veto-bait for multiple party factions. Ah, National Journal included George Pataki at #19...he's knocked out on abortion, if I recall correctly. Also, is it really likely that Condi Rice (DSB #19) holds no veto-bait positions? Last one: it's not about issues, but John Cornyn (DSB #16, NJ #16) certainly made plenty of Tea Party enemies as NRSC Chair without having a majority to show for it; I think that means he'd be vetoed by that party group.
So out of 28 names on the combined lists, I'd put 12 on the improbable-to-impossible list, leaving 16 some of whom have shown little apparent intent to date (Jindal, Jeb Bush, Kyl, Quayle).
So what's left?
Heavyweights...candidates who have been on a national ticket, or run before with some real success, or otherwise qualify as heavyweights for some reason: Romney, Palin, Huckabee. OK, so they're light heavyweights; there's no '88 Dole/Bush here. On top of relatively weak "heavyweight" credentials, each has serious problems with one or more GOP factions, and it's not clear yet whether they can overcome that. (Quayle and Jeb Bush would be in this group, and it's not really clear that either has any such problems, but they're not running. Right?).
Middleweights: candidates who are or were recently statewide elected officials with either a serious campaign in place, or or leaders of important party factions, or appear well-positioned to put a serious campaign in place, mainly because it's a big state: Pawlenty, Perry, Thune, Barbour, Christie, DeMint.
Longshots: candidates who don't quite fit in the above category, perhaps because they aren't really running, or because their "recent or current statewide elected" is iffy: Daniels, Santorum, McDonnell. Jindal and Kyl would go here, too.
The odds are very good that the nominee will come from one of the top two lists. The more I think about it, the more Perry, DeMint, and Barbour appear to me to be very serious contenders, although I wouldn't rule Romney, Palin, or Huck out. Our of the second list...I can't quite see why any GOP faction picks Pawlenty over the other choices; the same basically goes for Thune, plus he has the disadvantage of votes to defend. Christie? Well, it's not quite clear yet how he plays if he's an actual candidate; truth is, he really belongs on the longshot list. As for the other three: DeMint is a clear leader of the conservative wing of the conservative party, without straying (as far as I know) into the kind of territory that gets some of the candidates he endorses into trouble. If they insist on supporting a factional candidate, and can agree on one, they may be able to pull it off, especially if Palin (whose Palin faction overlaps with the conservative faction) drops out well before Iowa. Perry and Barbour, on the other hand, appear to me to be acceptable to every faction within the party, as well as being better positioned (through fundraising potential for Perry, and good personal relationship for Barbour) to cash in on it than others.
Of course, we're also talking about a party that cheered on O'Donnell and Angle and Buck and Miller, so perhaps they'll do something totally off the wall. But that's how I see the field so far.
(I talked about the Palin faction here, and about Thune and DeMint here).