Presidential Race / If It Weren't Peres

If only it weren't Shimon Peres, it would be possible to say with almost complete certainty that the presidency is his.

Likud candidate Reuven Rivlin is taking blow after blow. First Shas and then the Pensioners, two parties that collectively account for 10 Knesset seats Rivlin hoped would endorse him. "If Rivlin wins," one ultra-Orthodox pundit said yesterday, "I will start to believe in miracles."

On paper, Peres conservatively has 65 votes in the second or third round (depending when Colette Avital concedes), including four of the 10 Arab party lawmakers and three defectors from the right and United Torah Judaism.

But it is impossible to ignore the fact that Rivlin is everybody's friend in the Knesset. And it is impossible to ignore the fact the Kadima steamroller does two jobs. Some are convinced and some are convinced to lie.

Despite carefully broadcasting pessimism, some in Kadima even hope for a first round victory. For that to happen, they need to do one or two of the following unlikely things: convince Colette Avital to withdraw from the race; garner the support of seven Arab lawmakers already in the first round; or bring in some hardcore Rivlin supporters, like a substantial slice of Yisrael Beiteinu or UTJ.