It is now quite likely the new pope could be elected on St. Patrick's Day, March 17th.

Usually, the conclave begins 15 to 20 days after the death of The Pope, says National Review blogger Michael Potemra. In this case the 15-to-20 day clock will start running on Pope Benedict XVI's resignation day, February 28, which means the election will likely begin between March 15 and March 20.

Vatican sources have said it could possibly start before that but no final decision has been taken.

If the Vatican sticks to the old timetable, Potemra figures that the day of election will fall on March 17. He writes that "the usual minimum 15 days, plus the unusual extra 17 days of advance notice, means that they will start on the early side of the 15-to-20-day window: March 15. One ballot on Friday, March 15, followed by four on Saturday, March 16, and four on every successive day until a Pope is elected.

"It is less likely for a Pope to be elected on the first full day of balloting (though, in the past century, Ratzinger, Luciani, and Pacelli were), so the Pope will probably be elected on the second full day, which is Sunday, March 17 — yes, St. Patrick’s Day."

Meanwhile, one of the front runners, Canadian Cardinal Marc Ouellet, may have disqualified himself according to The New York Times because of a very poorly received speech he made at the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last year.

The Times quotes Vatican insiders as saying “some said he practically put the crowd to sleep during his talk at the International Eucharistic Congress last June in Dublin.”

In contrast, Filipino Cardinal Tagle and New York Cardinal Dolan helped their prospects by impressive speeches to groups of Cardinals in the recent past the newspaper reports.