As my 2016 track record will bear witness to, ballots of Tory MPs are notoriously hard to predict. The classic example was Margaret Thatcher topping the first ballot in 1975 when Edward Heath was expected to easily see off her challenge. More recently, there was the drama of 1997, when William Hague defied expectations of a virtual dead heat on the final ballot to defeat Kenneth Clarke comfortably, and 2001, when ruthlessly effective tactical voting robbed the frontrunner Michael Portillo of his place in the members' ballot by a single vote.
Nevertheless, with the health warning that everything I'm about to say is likely to be proved wrong within a matter of hours, here's how I see the state of play for each candidate going into today's second round.
Rory Stewart: Ah, the pride of "The Middleland". Arch-nemesis of Roman Emperors and their wicked walls. Barking mad though he is, it's impossible to deny that Rory was the clear winner of the Channel 4 debate on Sunday night - he made Hunt and Javid look bland, he made Raab look like an extremist, and he made Gove look like an idiot. He'll also presumably have been boosted more than the other candidates by the departure of Matt Hancock (irrespective of Hancock's opportunistic endorsement of Boris Johnson). I expect Rory to make a big leap today and to survive the cut once again, although the million dollar question is how high up the pecking-order he'll be. Even if he makes it to the final two, though, he doesn't have a hope in hell of actually winning the leadership, because the members' ballot is literally unwinnable for anyone who isn't a hardline Brexiteer. So he's going for the silver medal, in the hope that will leave him well-placed for a future tilt at the leadership once the Brexit kaleidoscope has shifted.
Jeremy Hunt: Solid but unspectacular in the Channel 4 debate. Doesn't seem to be particularly going forwards or backwards at the moment. His hopes of reaching the final two will hinge upon no-one else having sufficient momentum to overtake him.
Sajid Javid: Of the six remaining candidates, he strikes me as being the least likely to make it to the members' ballot. That's not to say he'll be in sixth place today - he may well be higher than that. But it's hard to see his path to reaching the top two, because he doesn't have a big enough natural constituency. Stewart has the pro-Europeans, Hunt has the establishment, Johnson has the careerists and some of the Brexit headbangers, Raab has the rest of the headbangers, and Gove has the kitten-who-thinks-he's-Rambo fan-vote. Who does Javid have?
Michael Gove: I keep wondering if he realises just how ridiculous he's making himself look with the hard man routine. I can only assume he doesn't. But Tories react differently to that sort of thing than the rest of us, so God knows.
Dominic Raab: He's had a poor campaign so far, and he continued to be uninspiring in the Channel 4 debate. But I just wonder if he might be on the verge of a breakthrough in spite of himself. There's a clear incentive for the Brexit true believers to lend Raab a tactical vote in the hope of stopping Stewart, Gove and Hunt. A No Deal v No Deal members' run-off would reduce the temptation for Johnson to "pivot", as the Americans say.
Boris Johnson: Almost certainly the next Prime Minister, and all the rest may be sound and fury signifying very little.
* * *
2019 Scot Goes Pop Fundraiser: This is Day 19 of the fundraiser, and so far £7365 has been raised. That's 87% of the way towards the target figure of £8500. A million thanks to everyone who has donated so far, and I'm also extremely grateful to all the people who have left a kind comment with their donation. You can visit the fundraising page HERE.