Republican presidential field swells to 11 candidates

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News

  

The 2024 slate of Republican presidential hopefuls is nothing if not a diverse grab bag of politicians and pundits, some of whom are polling only slightly higher than Joe Biden among conservative voters. 

As of Thursday, there are enough Republican candidates to field a football team, 11, but not enough serious contenders to create a 3-on-3 basketball squad. In short, no matter how many names align on the right, this figures to be a two-person race.

Former President Donald Trump remains the heavy favorite according to most polls and faces his only real competition from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. 

This week, two familiar names joined the fray when former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie launched their campaigns. 

Unsurprisingly, Trump was dismissive of both men and issued what has long been the former president’s calling card, a series of insults about his political rivals. 

In reference to a Christie speech, Trump posted a fat joke on Truth Social.

“How many times did Chris Christie use the word SMALL?” Trump wrote. “Does he have a psychological problem with SIZE? Actually, his speech was SMALL, and not very good. It rambled all over the place, and nobody had a clue of what he was talking about. Hard to watch, boring, but that’s what you get from a failed Governor … who left office with a 7% approval rating and then got run out of New Hampshire. This time, it won’t be any different!”

Christie, who is unapologetically anti-Trump and has frequently stated “no one is above the law” in reference to Trump’s various legal struggles, showed that he is at least willing to go insult-for-insult with Trump. 

Where many of Trump’s challengers either ignore or avoid confrontation with the MAGA leader, Christie joined DeSantis in using a more combative tactic. 

“Look, the minute you speak out against him … you know what he does? He lashes back out like a child,” Christie said during an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. “And if you or I were raising that child, we’d send them to their room, not to the White House.”

Pence has been more cautious of mentioning Trump by name, and has additionally avoided offering much in the way of comment about Trump’s potential federal indictment. 

However, the former vice president has called for new leadership on the right; and, given that Trump is the most recent top Republican in Washington, the target of the remark was clear. 

“We can revive our economy,” Pence tweeted Thursday. “We can put our Nation back on a path to a balanced federal budget. We can defend our liberties and give America a new beginning for life. All it takes is new Republican leadership in the White House!”

Pence, who entered the race with effectively no support, says he is running on faith. 

“I believe in the American people, and I have faith God is not done with America yet,” Pence, an avowed Christian, tweeted on the day he launched his campaign. “Together, we can bring this Country back, and the best days for the Greatest Nation on Earth are yet to come!”

But the math suggests Pence, who was tracking at single-digit percentages of the vote this week, has virtually no shot.

“I would leave history to historians,” Pence told Breitbart News. “What I can tell you is my wife and I have spent a lot of time traveling the country the last two years, reflecting and praying on how we might best serve our nation in a time of genuine crisis.

“Look, this country is in a lot of trouble. This is no ordinary time. I believe those of us who have the ability and the experience to bring about conservative change and to deliver victories on election day have a [responsibility] to try. I’ll leave the handicapping and the history to others, but for my part when I look at this field in the Republican primary not only my former running mate but I see others who are walking away from American leadership on the world stage and talking about that the fight for freedom and pushing back on Russian aggression is not in our national interest.”

WHO ELSE IS IN?

With so many moving parts in the Republican primary, it’s useful to reset the field from time to time. 

Beyond Trump, DeSantis, Christie, and Pence, the Republican field consists of former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, CEO Vivek Ramaswamy, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, conservative pundit Larry Elder, and former Michigan gubernatorial candidate Perry Johnson. 

It is hard to call anyone in the field a major threat to Trump or DeSantis, but stranger things have happened in American politics. Former President Bill Clinton had a slow start to his first presidential campaign and wound up doing quite well. 

For all the candidates, though, the Trump question remains the most pressing. Can anyone knock the former president from his perch atop the party? 

LEGAL WOES

Right now it seems like the biggest challenge to Trump is his own legal troubles. Thursday night, Trump announced that he had been indicted in the investigation into his mishandling of classified documents.

Trump said on Truth Social that he’s been “summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM.” It mark’s the first federal indictment of a former U.S. president.  Sources told ABC news that he faces seven criminal charges that carry a combined maximum sentence of seventy-five years.

Trump slammed the indictment as politically motivated weaponization of the Justice Department and maintained that he was innocent of all charges brought against him. He said that the the indictment was election interference as the charges are meant to prevent him from winning the 2024 election

According to Emerson College polling data taken before the indcitment, Trump sits 42 points ahead of DeSantis, and even farther ahead of the others, in Iowa. 

WHO WILL NOT RUN IN 2024?

A small number of Republicans have elected to avoid the 2024 bottleneck, a fact that does little to clear the mud around an already crowded field, but it at least settles things for the candidates who have bowed out without having ever bowed in. 

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Florida Sen. Rick Scott, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz had all been rumored for 2024 runs, but each has said he has no interest. 

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu became the latest member of the group when, on Tuesday, he announced he would not seek the presidency. 

Sununu cited a concern that an overly crowded field might lead to a lesser candidate earning the nomination. 

“The stakes are too high for a crowded field to hand the nomination to a candidate who earns just 35 percent of the vote, and I will help ensure this does not happen,” Sununu wrote in a Washington Post column. 

WHO MIGHT YET RUN? 

There are still several names to watch in the coming weeks. While few figure to be a strong contender, a handful of Republicans are still mulling a run. 

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem both have strong conservative followings and, according to at least one poll, Youngkin would track as the favorite to win Virginia if he declares. Youngkin also has reportedly amassed quite the war chest for a potential run. 

Neither Youngkin nor Noem have officially declared their intentions for 2024. Noem, who has more often been cited as a potential vice presidential candidate, has been mostly mum while Youngkin has evaded the question when pressed. 

Three other names, all of whom are long shots for different reasons, could still announce. 

Of the three, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is the only one with a seemingly bright future in the party. Suarez, who is in his mid-40s and still emerging on the national stage, is a long shot only in the sense that the field is crowded and he is not yet a household name. His best presidential hope lies in the future. 

The same cannot be said for John Bolton. The Republican consultant and former diplomat would be a longshot in any presidential race as he is fairly unpopular on the right and is aligned with the legacy wing of the party. 

In an “only in the current year” bit of humor, though, Bolton is not the least popular person currently considering a 2024 run. That distinction goes to former Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who was stampeded out of office via landslide in her state’s 2022 primary. 

Cheney – whose participation in the Jan. 6 committee appears to have tanked her political career and has effectively no support on the right – might still choose to run as a way to harm or otherwise embarrass Trump. 

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