Trail To The Chief: Inaugural Edition

The Inaugural Edition

Hi there, and welcome to Trail to the Chief, HuffPost’s weekly trip through the folds of time-space to the peculiar world of the 2016 presidential horse-race and media coverage of it.

You probably have heard (because we are telling you) that the 2016 contest has begun, and that, like every other presidential contest, it will be THE pivotal turning point in American history.

We'll leave pivotal -- and watershed, seminal, sea change, groundbreaking, transformational, etc. -- to hype and history.

All we know is there IS a campaign, and attention must be paid. The question is how.

For depth, breadth and seriousness, nothing beats the political coverage of HuffPost.

Then there is Trail to the Chief.

Each week we will pre-ponder the ponderous and de-hype the hype. We will collect Data (Polling, Big and Meta), political science, research, media buzz and our own survey of conventional thinking (which we disdain and never propagate) -- and feed it all into artisanal algorithms devised by our team of Brooklyn-based quant-lumbersexuals, who do this work for us before band practice.

We will chart candidates and campaigns, flacks and fixers, pundits and the press, TV ads and position papers, donors and demographics. We'll talk about it on HuffPost Live each week at 12:20 p.m. EST.

We will take this process just as seriously as the candidates do. In fact, here is our firm promise to you: Should the candidates pull off the unlikely feat of staging a high-minded, responsible and substantive campaign, we will go away.

In the meantime, we will kid because we love. We love politics. We love democracy, even our flawed one. And, truth be told, we love presidential campaigns.

This week we set the stage by ranking leading contenders. Naturally, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush top the charts, if only for the allure of a race larded with more '90s nostalgia than a season of "Portlandia." In our TTTC Image Of The Week, we show you the logo for Jeb’s new PAC. He calls it "Right To Rise." But is it to rise ... from the dead? (Basically, yes.)

A brace of GOP big dogs, Chris Christie and Scott Walker, primaried each other at Lambeau Field this weekend, each supporting an opposing team owner in the NFC Divisional Playoff. We're just sad we didn't get to see Christie execute a Lambeau Leap. And finally, as if the baby boomer theme weren't suffocating enough, let's all raise a glass of milk to Mitt Romney's return.

Ok, now here's our first list.

1 HILLARY CLINTONHillary machine idles with nothing to do, but somehow minor foes are getting leaked on Democrat
2 JEB BUSHToday's Mr. Sensible ran as wingnut in '94. Oops. And annoying Mitt won't quit Republican
3 RAND PAULMedia can’t help but hang on his every word because he could easily hang himself Republican
4 SCOTT WALKERUnion-busting governor in birthplace of progressivism: a perfect theme for the '50s Republican
5 PAUL RYANMight have won in 2012 if they used “dynamic scoring” to count votes Republican
6 ELIZABETH WARRENIt’s been weeks since she denied she was running. ... What is she hiding? Democrat
7 MITT ROMNEYHe 100 percent wants to be president, but only 47 percent wants to run Republican
8 CHRIS CHRISTIEMitt claimed kinship with NASCAR owners; bro-hugging N.J. governor does him one better Republican
9 MARCO RUBIOHolding first fundraiser at Manhattan restaurant; Yelp says oysters are subpar Republican
10 JOE BIDENGrandfathered into the top 10. Joe knew his way around a selfie long before the smart phone Democrat
11 JOHN KASICHSpeaks blue collar, raised Catholic and from Ohio. Pre-tea party, that was enough Republican
12 BOBBY JINDALEnough with the Ivy League position papers, give us some “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy” Republican
13 MIKE HUCKABEEEnough with the “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,” give us some position papers Republican
14 TED CRUZWe know you’re trolling us, but we can monetize that Republican
15 BERNIE SANDERSUnlikely to get Democratic nomination, but shoo-in for a Ben and Jerry’s flavor Independent Socialist Democrat
16 JIM WEBBHard-to-pigeonhole longshot, but reportedly got the attention of the Hillary machine Democrat
17 RICK PERRYNew glasses don’t make him look studious, more like Warby Parker spokesmodel Republican
18 BEN CARSONWasted no time meeting at least one campaign requirement: a plagiarism apology Republican
19 ANDREW CUOMOCan count on one softball CNN interview Democrat
20 (Tie) RICK SANTORUMWe still have our ‘12 sweater vest, but has he lost the ‘16 evangelical play-in game to Huck? Republican
20 (Tie) MARTIN O'MALLEYRelentless dinner-circuit travel and self-promotion save him from teeny type list below Democrat

Even More Obscure Candidates
Cory Booker, Jerry Brown, Steve Bullock, Julian Castro, Mitch Daniels, Rahm Emanuel, Russ Feingold, Carly Fiorina, Newt Gingrich, Lindsey Graham, Luis Gutiérrez, Nikki Haley, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Joe Manchin, Jack Markell, Susana Martinez, Jay Nixon, George Pataki, Deval Patrick, Mike Pence, Rob Portman, Ed Rendell, Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Joe Scarborough, Brian Schweitzer, Donald Trump and Mark Warner

Candidate Photos: Getty, Associated Press
TTTC Image: Right to Rise logo via https://righttorisepac.org/, Day of the Dead poster via Imp Awards