- The Republican primary field has expanded to ten serious presidential candidates, with three contenders announcing this week — Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.
- The announcement period is largely over, and the GOP field is likely set, but all the attention continues to be focused on former President Donald Trump and whether anyone can seriously challenge him, several political experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- “If you’re going to put your money [on someone], you gotta put it on Donald Trump,” Dr. Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and an American Enterprise Institute fellow, told the DCNF. “This large field right now works to his advantage.”
As the Republican primary field continues to grow, with several other candidates jumping in this week, political experts and analysts believe the field is set, and the announcement phase is largely over, they told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum announced their candidacies this week, adding to a growing GOP primary field of ten serious contenders. As the attention pivots to the debates and early primary states, the attention continues to be focused on former President Donald Trump and whether any candidate can seriously challenge him, several political experts told the DCNF.
“If you’re going to put your money [on someone], you gotta put it on Donald Trump,” Dr. Charles Bullock, professor of political science at the University of Georgia and an American Enterprise Institute fellow, told the DCNF. “This large field right now works to his advantage.”
Along with Trump and the three newcomers, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, businessman Vivek Ramaswamy and conservative radio show host Larry Elder are all vying for the Republican nomination.
Bullock believes the primary “is Trump’s to lose,” especially considering he won by a plurality in 2016, but said that could change if more indictments come. He noted that DeSantis is the other frontrunner, but acknowledged he’s 20 to 30 points behind the former president in many state polls.
“So far, he hasn’t really aggressively gone after Trump. So he may hope that someone like Chris Christie will kind of soften Trump up and convince some share of Trump supporters to reevaluate,” Bullock said of DeSantis. “It may be more his hope that he benefits from conditions influenced by others rather than his own willingness to go hard against Trump.”
Though Christie did endorse Trump for president after withdrawing from the primary in 2016 when he came in sixth in New Hampshire, the former governor severed ties with him after his allegations of election fraud in 2020. Christie took multiple digs at Trump in his presidential announcement speech on Tuesday, where he called the former president a “lonely, self-consumed, self-serving mirror hog.”
Bullock said Scott might emerge as a third alternative to both Trump and DeSantis, and believes Christie could gain momentum from those who are looking for an “aggressive challenger” to the former president.
“It’s what one expects from a kind of a professional partisan who takes a long view, sure wants to win, but also doesn’t want to do serious damage to the party,” Bullock said of Christie. “And therefore would be willing to sacrifice themselves even to just say ‘we need to do what’s good for the party so that it can fight another day,’ which is the antithesis of Trump — Trump is all about himself.”
The RealClearPolitics average for the GOP primary in 2024, based on polls conducted from May 8 to May 22, indicates Trump and DeSantis are leading the field with 53.2% and 22.4% support, respectively, followed by Haley, Pence and Ramaswamy at 4.4%, 3.8% and 2.6%. Scott and Christie have 1.6% and 1% support, respectively.
Natalie Jackson, a political pollster and analyst, believes Trump is in a “strong position” in the crowded Republican primary field, that she acknowledged was “pretty well set,” she told the DCNF. She characterized the current GOP landscape as “three-tiered,” with Trump, DeSantis and everyone else.
“The breakout is not going to be anybody rising to Trump’s level, the breakout is going to be if anybody can challenge DeSantis first in that second tier, and only after that, can you even think about challenging Trump,” said Jackson. “So unless Trump’s numbers start really falling quickly, it’s just a really sticky situation if you’re in that bottom tier.”
Jackson said while there isn’t a “unified opposition” to the former president, Scott is the candidate “to watch.” She believes Christie’s sole purpose for being in the race is to “heckle Trump,” and thinks Pence is too much of a “divisive figure” because of his ties to Jan. 6, and doesn’t believe he could “break free of any of that.”
Keith Gaddie, Oklahoma University professor and political scientist, told the DCNF that though “the field is pretty much set,” he isn’t sure who he could see as the president.
“There are pure anti-Trumps, there are people who are saying they’re anti-Trump people, even though they were in the administration — that’s Haley, that’s Christie, that’s Pence. And then you’ve got people on the outside who will look like Trump on policy and can work in part of the rhetoric, so that’s DeSantis…and I’m trying to figure out where Scott fits in all of this,” said Gaddie. “My problem is, I don’t see a president in the bunch.”
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