Since my initial post on this subject, two have dropped out (Perry, Walker) and a couple are lookin' pretty shaky (Paul, Graham), but the reality show goes on. Let's get on with it then:
Tier 1: Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina
For now, they're on top because they get attention, and how. Trump is going to keep running and running and running given his ego and Fiorina is the only other candidate who can stand up to Trump's braggadocio. You have to give Fiorina points for the sheer chutzpah of making a lying video after lying about a video in the last debate. Not that the lies cancel each other out, of course. I'm afraid it does say some pretty unflattering things about the GOP's base that no one dares call her out for being a liar. I remember Barry Goldwater's quip about extremism in defense of liberty being no vice, but I do think he'd have drawn the line at baldfaced lying.
Tier 2: Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich
Jeb falls back after his inept debate performance and lackluster campaign in general, while Rubio moves up as a consequence of Jeb's weak showing so far, as Rubio sort of fills the same political niche as Jeb does - a kinder, gentler face of the Republican Party. Cruz is certainly not that face, but he is now definitely the Tea Party's darling after Scott Walker's implosion. Kasich isn't really at the level the others in this tier are at, but as he's still got some real advantages as a candidate geographically coming from a key swing state, so I rate him a bit higher given his potential, even though he's not polling well. It's still a long way to Iowa though, and we'll see.
Tier 3: The rest.
Seriously, if anyone thinks Ben Carson has a chance, please, bet me a dollar and I'll pay you a thousand if I'm wrong. Sure, he'll stick around while he can I'm sure, possibly longer than most of the other also-rans. Mike Huckabee is a capable enough politician but has little actual support so he's just grifting, while Rand Paul may have some libertarian Republican followers he's still not exciting them enough to really matter, and I think Paul will drop out in the next month and just be happy to be in the U.S. Senate. As for the kid's table candidates, I'm wondering why they're even bothering having a warm-up debate myself.