'08 Race: Top Tier Crowds Out the Also-Rans

+ More

The earlier-than-ever presidential race will become the longest ever with 14 contestants already in the chase.

Don't try to handicap all these entries because some of them won't even make it to the Iowa caucuses, still a year away. And a few more could get in.

Eight Democrats and six Republicans, by my count, have mainly formed exploratory committees so they can start raising money. It may take $50 million or so just to be a true player.

The reality is that this money chase will be the biggest our political system has endured. Combined with the length of the campaign and the negative ads sure to come, it could become a massive turnoff for voters.

The media play a significant role, too. The early rankings of the candidates dismiss most of them. It pays to be in the top tier.

For the Democrats, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's front-running status has hardly scared off the crowd.

Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards join Clinton in the top tier. The latest candidate to enter the fray, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, figures to be running more for vice president but, of course, he won't say it.

The other Democrats, Sens. Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd and former Gov. Tom Vilsack, will have to struggle for attention. Forget Rep. Dennis Kucinich as a nonstarter.

For the Republicans, the half-dozen candidates may be on a fool's errand if the war in Iraq is still blazing in the fall and winter. President Bush's sinking popularity number may drag down his fellow Republicans in the general election.

For now, Arizona Sen. John McCain, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney have been handed front-row status.

Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, a stemwinder conservative on social issues, could be a player if evangelicals are going to be a force.

The other two, former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore and California Rep. Duncan Hunter, will be lucky to make a percentage point or two in the blizzard of polls.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich remains on the sideline for now, threatening to get in. He has a following of sorts.

The final word: Every household in America will be lucky to escape a mailer or phone call seeking money. They are already calling it a billion-dollar election. It could be more.