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Frist Recruits Two Key Players

The Fix continues to recuperate from the Ohio River Ramble, but I didn't want to leave political junkies without anything to debate today. Here's a whale update for 2008 watchers:

No candidate considering a 2008 campaign had a worse 2005 than Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Following his less than stellar performance under the bright lights of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this spring, most observers assumed Frist was a non-entity when it came to the coming White House race.

Frist has largely flown under the radar ever since, and although we remain skeptical that he will emerge as a major player for the Republican nomination, his prospects have improved.

With Virginia Sen. George Allen struggling to win his reelection race and perhaps permanently damaged from his "macaca" moment and allegations of past racial slurs, Frist has an opportunity to emerge as the favorite of social conservatives -- especially evangelicals -- who do not feel comfortable with Arizona Sen. John McCain or Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. (McCain is still viewed askance by some in the evangelical community as a result of his 2000 primary campaign against President George W. Bush, while Romney's Mormonism could be a hurdle to his courtship of Christian conservatives.)

Frist takes a big step forward among the influential evangelical movement with word that George Seay III, one of the founders of Legacy -- a burgeoning group of wealthy and politically minded evangelicals seeking to exert influence in the 2008 presidential election -- has signed on as a supporter of the Tennessee senator. (Time's Mike Allen reported on Legacy in August as did Hotline's "On Call" blog way back in February.)

Seay, a Dallas businessman, has a considerable political pedigree. His grandfather was former Texas Gov. Bill Clements -- the first Republican elected to that post since Reconstruction.

Frist has also inked Ross Perot Jr. -- the son of the two-time presidential candidate and Texas billionaire Ross Perot -- to his 2008 team. Perot Jr. is currently the chairman of Perot Systems Corporation and another major political and financial player in the Dallas community.

Frist still lags behind McCain and Romney in his courtship of the major players who form the financial backbone of any successful presidential bid, but he is making progress -- at the expense of people like Allen, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and others.

Here's our updated list of likely GOP presidential candidates and the key backers they have recruited so far. If we are missing anyone -- we are looking at you Giuliani and Huckabee campaigns -- please let us know.

The Whale List (new names are in ALL CAPS)

Bill Frist

Zachariah Zachariah, cardiologist (Fla.) RANGER
Ken Eldred, Living Stones Foundation (Calif.)
Michael Lebovitz, CBL & Associates Partners (Tenn.) RANGER
Jim Haslam, Pilot Oil Co. (Tenn.) RANGER
Chip Saltsman, former Tennessee state party chairman (Tenn.) RANGER
Ted Welch, Ted Welch Investments (Tenn.) RANGER
Jeff McWaters, Amerigroup Corp. (Va.) PIONEER

John McCain

Wayne Berman, lobbyist (D.C.) RANGER
Fred Malek, Thayer Capital Partners (D.C.)
Carter Pate, PricewaterhouseCoopers (D.C./Texas) RANGER
Bob Mosbacher, Mosbacher Energy Co. (Texas)
Tom Loeffler, lobbyist (Texas) RANGER
Bill Clements, Former Texas Governor (Texas) PIONEER
Ron Weiser, Former Slovakia Ambassador (Michigan) PIONEER
Kent Hance, Former Congressman (Texas) PIONEER
Gerald Parsky, Aurora Capital Group (California) PIONEER
Sergio Pino, Century Partners Group (Florida) RANGER
Sig Rogich, Rogich Communications Group (Nevada) RANGER

Mitt Romney

Mark Chapin Johnson, Chapin Medical Company (Calif.)
Peter Karmanos, Compuware Corp. (Mich.)
David Fischer, Suburban Collection (Mich.) PIONEER
John Rakolta, Walbridge Aldinger (Mich.) RANGER
Dave Phillips, Phillips Industries (N.C.) RANGER
Tom Tellefsen, Tellefsen Investments (Calif.) PIONEER
Anne Dunsmore, Capital Campaigns (Calif.) RANGER
Hadi Makarechian, Capital Pacific Holdings (Calif.)
Herb Collins, Boston Capital Partners (Mass.) PIONEER
Jim Sims (MA) GEN3Partners (Mass.)
Joe O'Donnell (MA), Boston Culinary Group (Mass.) RANGER
Tom Foley, NTC Corp. (Conn.) PIONEER
Eric Tanenblatt, McKenna Long Aldridge (Ga.) RANGER
Ron Kaufman, Dutko Group (D.C.) PIONEER

Tomorrow is the return of The Line, which will focus on the top 20 House contests in the nation.

By Chris Cillizza  |  October 2, 2006; 9:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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