The zeitgeist this week seems to be that Fred Thompson has tarried too long and perhaps missed his window of opportunity, while Mitt Romney is finally catching fire and coming into his own as a candidate.

Frankly, I have the same feeling.

In truth: We are just not going to understand the impact of Fred Thompson's entry into this race until he enters the race (assuming that he, indeed, will throw his hat into the ring, to which I am starting to have my doubts).

More significantly, the malaise hanging over the GOP race is a sense of impending doom in November 2008. This dread is not so much a result of inferior candidates; rather, it is the certainty that our electoral chances are inextricably linked to our success in Iraq. However, the glimmer of hope breaking across the Republican horizon in re Iraq may shine a more attractive light on our current crop of contenders.

A more successful Iraq would bode well for John McCain, if he weren't hopelessly damaged beyond all redemption with GOP primary voters--but McCain seems truly beyond resuscitation.

That leaves Rudy, who remains atop the national surveys among Republicans and continues to run strong in national polls among all voters.

Undoubtedly, Mitt Romney is finding his voice. His success in the upcoming Iowa straw poll will offer him his moment of maximum exposure. From what I can see--he is ready. It is conceivable that Romney might take this moment to emerge as the frontrunner and never look back. I must admit that I am increasingly sympathetic to him.

However, I continue to have serious doubts. Romney is running as an "outsider." I remain skeptical that the Republicans can win a national election as the party of new ideas. Will anyone buy that at this point?

For a lot of reasons, the Republicans remain in a fix.