He received 30% of the vote at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Mitt Romney finished second with 24%. It is fascinating to watch the race for the Republican presidential nomination. The most interesting thing is that there is no race. Potential candidates abound, but volunteers are few — and tomorrow, February 14, is exactly one year before the probable date of the New Hampshire primary. The Republican party is ascendant, but who will lead it? It won’t be Ron Paul. Georgetown University professor Michael Kazin–he is also the co-editor of Dissent, a left-leaning political magazine–says it best: “…[W]ill a sizable plurality of Republican voters go for a politician who wants the U.S. to have a good deal less power in the world, to return to the gold standard that no reputable conservative economist supports, and to radically downsize or eliminate such popular and necessary federal programs as Medicare and Social Security?” I’m not sure that a sizeable plurality of Republican voters would regard Medicare and Social Security as “popular and necessary federal programs,” but I agree with Kazin that Paul’s radical libertarianism dooms him. His views are too far from the mainstream. I can’t recall a year like this one. It’s like a horse race on a muddy track. Nobody wants to take the lead. The jockeys would rather stay in the pack and hope that the mud splatters on somebody else. Who does this situation benefit? It helps Romney, the frontrunner in money and endorsements, and it helps the real dark horses like, well, Rick Perry, who must wait and hope for lightning to strike. The middle of the pack–Gingrich, Huckabee, Palin–may not be able to break out. Here are the Irish bookies’ betting odds for president: Barack Obama 4/5 Mitt Romney 8/1 Sarah Palin 12/1 John Thune 12/1 David Petraeus 16/1 Mitch Daniels 16/1 John Boehner 18/1 Tim Pawlenty 18/1 Hillary Clinton 20/1 Haley Barbour 25/1 Bobby Jindal 25/1 Michael Bloomberg 25/1 Newt Gingrich 25/1 Marco Rubio 25/1 John Huntsman 28/1 Rick Perry 33/1 Mike Pence 33/1 Joe Biden 33/1 Chuck Hagel 33/1 Fred Thompson 33/1 Bill Owens 33/1 Rand Paul 40/1 Rudy Giuliani 40/1 Evan Bayh 40/1 Lindsey Graham 40/1 Chris Christie 40/1 Chuck Baldwin 40/1 Tom Ridge 50/1 Arnold Schwarzenegger 50/1 Rand Paul 66/1 John Edwards 66/1 Mark Warnter 66/1 Condoleeza Rice 66/1 Caroline Kennedy 66/1 Al Gore 66/1 John McCain 66/1 George Allen 66/1 George Pataki 80/1 Bill Frist 80/1 Donald Trump 80/1 Jim Webb 100/1 John Kerry 100/1 Paul Ryan 100/1 Janet Napolitano 100/1 Tim Kaine 100/1 Kathleen Sebelius 100/1 Sam Brownback 100/1 Dick Cheney 200/1 Will Smith 250/1 Paris Hilton 1000/1 Laura Bush 1000/1 Obviously, this is all in good fun, but I would like to make a couple of comments. 1. John Boehner is the best longshot on the board. He controls his own destiny, up to a point. If he has a great congressional session, he moves up considerably. 2. I like Petraeus, too. I don’t think he’ll run, but I’d put some money on him anyway, in case the Middle East blows up, and Obama’s foreign policy flounders. 3. I don’t understand why Jeb Bush isn’t listed. If they list Laura, why not Jeb? If he decided to run, he’d start off at 25/1, the same as Gingrich, and I think he would have a real chance. Great crossover appeal to Latino voters.