To some extent, a hotly contested campaign for a high political office can resemble a production of Agatha Christie’s long-running London stage hit, “Ten Little Indians.”

As the plot develops, character after character gets knocked off, leaving the audience to wonder both who will be next and who will be left walking around on stage when it comes time for the final curtain.

Thus, in the current Republican race for the party’s 2012 presidential nomination, we appear to be about in the middle of the production, at a point where a number of characters have fallen while a fair number of others continue the contest.

The withdrawal this week of both Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin removed two people who had never formally announced for the race, and yet had garnered plenty of attention while they spent months “making up their minds” — a political phrase that means “assessing the odds I could win.”

Both came up short, at least in their own estimation, and by withdrawing joined Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in declining even to dip a toe in the presidential hopefuls’ wading pool.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was the first candidate with good party name recognition to bow out, barely registering in the polls and unable to raise substantial donations.

Of the remaining candidates, Rep. Michele Bachmann showed some early spark, and the recent entry of Texas Gov. Rick Perry drew considerable attention, but as things stand today, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain are topping the party polls.

No one seems to have a lock on the nomination yet, but at least Republicans have their field in place and need no longer look outside it for people riding in from the horizon to stake a claim on their political affections.

So let’s turn to another theatrical production, 1986’s “Hoosiers,” about a high school basketball team’s trek to a championship. In one popular scene, the coach, Gene Hackman, pulls the team’s best player off the court for hogging the ball, and when another player fouls out, refuses to put the hot dog back in, even though the team is down to just four players. “My team is on the floor,” he tells the referee.

For the GOP, its team is on the floor, even if some people would have preferred some different choices. One of the curent contenders will almost certainly be the party’s nominee. And then the real championship will begin.