This is the fourth installment of The Notebook's monthly survey of the 7th Congressional District field and each candidate's chances of winning the GOP nomination in 2010.
The higher the candidate's ranking, the more likely he/she is positioned to win the nomination at this point and time -- and be put on the path to replace Roy Blunt in the U.S. House.
For last month's rankings CLICK HERE.
1. Jack Goodman -- (Stable) He remains at the top of the pack due to his establishment support, his solid fundraising and his gradual organizational growth. As one politico put it, Goodman is the insta-pol: Just add water. They won't be bragging about it or putting it on a banner, but Goodman is the clear, purified establishment candidate. The most impressive part about Goodman's 2nd quarter fundraising report was it was fueled by small donors, according to a Notebook analysis. That's proof he is running a grass-roots campaign. It also shows many of his donors probably haven't maxed out yet. Goodman will need the money for defense, because next year, he'll have a large target on his back.
2. Billy Long -- (Up 2) Boosted by an announcement speech that showcased his broad support, Long seems to be surging. The usual GOP establishment types weren't the faces at Long's announcement -- and that's the auctioneer's stealth strength. A TARGET BBQ observer writes, "I saw more than a few people at TARGET who no one seemed to know. They came in, wrote checks, and put Billy Long stickers on." The establishment types aren't laughing at the knee-slappers Billy is serving up. They think he's "all hat, no cattle." And the loyalists call him "Billy come lately," for never having been active in local GOP politics until he was running himself. But the anti-Billy buzz is starting to simmer only because he's a real and growing threat -- and those around long enough know it. To peg Long as a Springfield-centric candidate might also be a mistake. He's done 200 auctions a year from Poplar Bluff to Joplin, which means his rolodex is to be reckoned with. Right now, his entire candidacy is based on the fact that "he ain't one of them guys." How that wears with voters -- and whether Long can build a message of credible leadership around it -- will determine whether he rises or falls.
3. Gary Nodler -- (Down 1) Quick: What's longer? Gary Nodler's fundraising contacts or his enemies list? The Notebook thinks the wrap against Nodler may be a little unfair (he's been nothing but gracious, honest and fair with me.) But the stories about Nodler continue to circulate -- because he's got some enemies. A bigger question for Nodler is early organization. Some Republicans at Greene County's TARGET barbeque were wondering why Nodler didn't have a bigger staff presence, handing out stickers, pamphlets and signs. A source says he was also flying solo at the Watermelon Feed in Neosho. Maybe he's just being fiscally conservative with his campaign account in the off-year. The conventional wisdom among politicos is that Nodler doesn't need to WIN the district's largest county, he just needs to place second and rack it up in Joplin. But when mere geography is your strongest asset, it just invites your opponents to fight on your turf. Nodler's fundraising will be impressive, and he'll be in this until the end. But will the citizens of Springfield really cede their U.S. House seat to its red-headed stepchild of Joplin?
4. Darrell Moore -- (Up 1) In his most recent Tweet, Darrell Moore said the three top issues he's hearing about at the Ozarks Empire Fair are healthcare, cap and trade and earmarks. And if you were to sit down and talk to Greene County's prosecutor on any of these topics, you'd get an earful of wonkish-policy points filled with data. Go no further than Moore's campaign site and you realize Moore is a well-read candidate who's actually thought about the issues. But that only goes so far in retail politics. His speeches are a bit too professorial and prosecutorial. Loosening up and injecting some humor would go a long way. But that takes time. The buzz is that a recent poll showed Moore beating the rest of the field. But that's just based on name identification. Moore's problem isn't being known, it's being loved. Can the GOP really fall for the most moderate candidate in the field? You'll know Moore matters when somebody hits him.
5. Sarah Steelman -- (Down 2) Since early June, The Sarah Steelman show has gone dark. Speculation about her 2010 intentions have slowed. In the spring, she dominated stories about the U.S. Senate race. Now coverage of Steelman has been compressed into a one-liner: "Steelman is now seen as less likely to run for U.S. Senate." Yet, she's still the elephant in the room in the 7th District. Despite her Rolla residence, no candidate will feel better until Steelman unambiguously makes her plans clear. Steelman would seem to be swimming upstream at this point, against the clock. Most candidates are laps ahead on organization, fundraising and staffing. But the Steelmanites scoff at that notion. Why pay a consultant this early when you've got David Steelman? The family is said to be vacationing overseas right now, and if there is still a decision to be made, early fall would be a likely date to watch for.
6. Jeff Wisdom -- (Stable) It's tough to campaign when you are overseas serving our country. As a Naval Reserve, Wisdom is currently fulfilling his obligation in Bahrain, but is expected to be home by Labor Day. "It seems the congressional race in SW MO is all figured out, let me offer this caveat in the words of Ronald Reagan...you ain't seen nothin' yet!!," Wisdom writes on his FACEBOOK page. Wisdom isn't likely to win this race (He dissed Roy Blunt the day he announced), but his presence and loyal following among some in the Tea Party movement could force some of his opponents to answer uncomfortable questions. Here's to safe service overseas for Wisdom so he can stir it up when he returns home.
7. Dean Moore -- (----) How difficult is it for the Democratic Party to field a credible candidate in the ruby red 7th District? An independent announced his candidacy before someone in the oldest political party in operation. Chad Livengood reports that Highlandville businessman Dean Moore is running for the 7th District U.S. House seat. Moore's got a booth at the Empire Fair, where he's been listening to people frustrated with the two-party system. Problem for him is, the 7th Congressional District is primarily a one-party system, dominated by Republicans.