For both parties, we have included the potential candidates we feel are the most likely to run and have the biggest impact on the race. In future editions, as people step up and step back, we will adjust the rosters.
Here are the categories and how the candidates stack up.
Money Potential: Typically, though not always (see: Howard Dean 2004), the candidate who has raised the most money by the time of the Iowa caucuses wins the nomination. This presidential cycle will be different than any other one of the modern era, with the broadly held assumption that most candidates will refuse to take on the federal matching funds (and accompanying spending limits) in order to be competitive through the winter and spring. There are a lot of unknowns here, but just because candidates will feel pressure to raise more money does not mean it will be any easier to do so.
Actual cash in the bank eventually will matter more than the potential to raise it, but until that point, here are some of the questions being asked: How much money can the candidate raise -- in reality, in the candidate's own opinion, and in the opinion of close observers? Has the candidate gotten commitments from heavy-hitter fundraisers? Is he/she funneling money into a re-election campaign fund for 2006 or 2008, which could be rolled into a presidential account? Is he/she making the right stops in New York, Hollywood, Texas, and Miami? Does he/she have his/her own vast personal resources to help fund a run? Who has the personality and savvy to raise "easy" money on the Internet? In any big political campaign, money is one of the three legs of the stool, also known as the "virtuous cycle:" fundraising leads to good press coverage, which leads to better poll numbers, both of which are shown to would-be contributors, leading to more money, to even better coverage and poll numbers, and so on.
Rationale/Issues/Record: One of the heartening aspects of U.S. presidential politics is that voters tend to demand that candidates base their campaigns on something meaningful. A good message is future-oriented and easy to understand, and reflects issues voters care about. And oh, yes, it does help if the candidate actually believes his own message and has been preaching passionately about it for at least a couple of years.