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Haley Barbour sits atop GOP

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour is the most influential Republican in the party. AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis

With less than two months before the 2010 midterm elections, attention within the GOP is turning to the architects of the Republican campaign efforts.

Republican Governors Association Chairman Haley Barbour (Miss.) is the de facto leader of the party. His committee's massive fundraising and the increasing likelihood that he will run for president in 2012 have put him at the start -- and the finish -- of any conversation about the future of the party.

As conventional wisdom continues to cement around the idea that Republicans will win the House this fall, both Pete Sessions (Texas), the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee, and John Boehner (Ohio), the likely Speaker if Republicans take over, are growing more influential. (Boehner's speech last week -- in which he called for the firing of the Obama Administration's economic team -- drew kudos in Republican circles.)

Friday Line

And, John Cornyn, the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, could wind up as the biggest story on election night if he is able to guide the GOP into the Senate majority -- a prospect that is growing more likely even if it remains less than a 50-50 proposition.

All four men make it onto our Line of the 10 most influential Republicans in the party right now. The other slots are largely filled by those politicians eyeing the 2012 race, which, rest assured, will begin in earnest on November 3.

Agree or disagree with our picks? The comments section awaits.

To the Line!

10. Pete Sessions: The NRCC Chairman enters the list by virtue of the importance of taking the House -- and the increasing likelihood that it will happen. With the Senate still the more difficult of the two chambers for Republicans to take back, Sessions' stewardship of the NRCC gives the party its best chance at having a seat at the table in the next Congress, and the committee hasn't been afraid of setting high expectations. (Previous ranking: N/A)

9. Mike Huckabee: The former Arkansas governor continues to be the darling of Iowa Republicans, taking the top spot among potential 2012 candidates in a GOP poll of Iowa caucus-goers earlier this month. Add to that his recent round of Iowa endorsements and the success of his endorsed primary candidates -- including attorney Joe Miller (R) in the Alaska Senate race and former Rep. Nathan Deal (R) in the Georgia gubernatorial race - and Huckabee's on a roll as of late. (Previous ranking: 10)

8. Mitch Daniels: Daniels is the 2012 buzz candidate of the moment in Washington Republican circles. He continues to do little publicly to organize for a race but the insta-reaction from his allies to talk that he had ruled out the race in an interview with the Louisville Courier Journal says everything you need to know about how seriously Daniels is taking all of this. (Previous ranking: N/A)

7. Jim DeMint: Like him or hate him, DeMint has been right a lot of times this year when it comes to picking candidate in contested Republican primaries. The tea party movement is largely leaderless but if it has a face in official Washington, that face is the Senator from South Carolina. (Previous ranking: N/A)

6. John Cornyn: Cornyn has suggested he's on a two-election cycle track to retake the Senate, but it's looking more and more likely that it could happen this cycle. Cornyn faces a multitude of toss-up races, though, including some in which the Republicans are playing defense like Missouri. Still, if Cornyn comes close to the majority -- or even wins it -- he will be an ascendant force in the party. (Previous ranking: N/A)

5. John Boehner: The House minority leader has been working around this clock this summer, raising and donating more than $8 million for the NRCC and stumping for more than 20 Republican candidates. But the key development that's bumped Boehner onto this month's Line is that the notion of a Speaker Boehner is now becoming a very real possibility - and that means that the already-influential House minority leader will be gaining more clout over the next 60 days. (Previous ranking: N/A)

4. Tim Pawlenty: Minnesota voters may not like the profile Pawlenty is cutting as a national GOP leader, but that's par for the course when it comes to politicians entering the national stage. Pawlenty continues to make overtures about the 2012 presidential race, including the recent news that he will publish a new book in January. That also happens to be when he will likely make his decision about running. One thing to watch: Pawlenty has kept his powder dry when it comes to endorsing in contested 2010 GOP primaries. Does that hurt or help him in his own candidacy? (Previous ranking: 5)

3. Mitt Romney: The former Massachusetts governor, who has been among the most prolific endorsers among potential 2012 candidates, is now backing
candidates in more than half of all 50 states
- a milestone that speaks to the strong groundwork Romney is laying for his all-but-certain presidential bid. Romney's refusal to get mixed up in the controversy over the proposed Islamic center near ground zero - and his unyielding focus on the economic issues - demonstrate his keen political acumen and his realization that the economy remains the main concern for voters this cycle, and likely beyond. (Previous ranking: 2)

2. Sarah Palin: The news that the 2008 vice presidential nominee was headed to Iowa later this month created the sort of political furor that only she can generate. And, Palin flexed her home state muscle by helping attorney Joe Miller pull off the upset of the 2010 cycle over Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R). Predicting what Palin will do is a fool's errand but whatever it is will draw attention -- and lots of it. (Previous ranking: 3)

1. Haley Barbour: The Mississippi governor is talking more and more openly about what a "Barbour for President" campaign might look like. And, thanks to his post at the helm of the Republican Governors Association, Barbour is the most powerful force in the party -- traveling the country and doling out millions of dollars to aspiring candidates. (Previous ranking: 1)

With Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez

By Chris Cillizza  | September 3, 2010; 12:05 PM ET
Categories:  The Line  
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