As the opening phase of the Republican presidential primary draws to a close, the focus has largely been on the escalating clash between former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. However, a new wave of Republican White House hopefuls is set to enter the 2024 race in the coming weeks, following a period of relative inactivity. Among them is former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who will officially launch his campaign on Wednesday.
Former Vice President Mike Pence has also indicated that he will finalize his plans in “weeks, not months.” Despite maintaining a busy schedule of early state visits and policy speeches, aides have discussed details of an announcement that could come as early as May, but more likely in June. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who has formed a presidential exploratory committee, is expected to join the race within a similar timeframe.
Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been meeting with former aides and recently returned to New Hampshire, where he declared at a town hall meeting in the first-in-the-nation primary state, “Tonight is the beginning of the case against Donald Trump.” Christie has stated that he will make a decision “in the next couple of weeks.”
These contenders will enter the race at a critical moment, as DeSantis, who has yet to officially announce his candidacy, has struggled to meet the sky-high expectations of some early backers. He has also been losing support among elected Republicans in his own state to Trump and prompting concerns among some in the party that his stances on abortion and LGBTQ rights, among other issues, could make him unelectable in a general election.
Despite being indicted in New York and facing intensifying investigations in Atlanta and Washington, Trump has solidified his position as the early front-runner. Nevertheless, his electability remains in question after losing to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020.
Would-be rivals hope that this dynamic creates an opening for one of the fresh entrants to emerge as an alternative to the current polling leaders. Some strategists also hope that Trump and DeSantis will engage in such a vicious clash that voters will turn to an alternative. “It’s not uncommon for a third candidate who’s not involved in the kerfuffle to rise,” said Bryan Lanza, a former Trump adviser who has informally advised Larry Elder, the conservative talk radio host who announced his campaign on Thursday.
Lanza believes that a robust race for the “leader of the second tier” of candidates, currently polling at under 10%, is on the horizon. As the Republican primary takes shape, the field promises to be a hotly contested battle, with a number of viable candidates jockeying for position and seeking to position themselves as a viable alternative to the front-runners.
While former President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have dominated much of the conversation in recent weeks, a new wave of contenders is set to enter the fray. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson will launch his campaign on Wednesday, and former Vice President Mike Pence is expected to finalize his plans in the coming weeks. South Carolina Senator Tim Scott, who has formed a presidential exploratory committee, is also expected to enter the race in the near future.
Other candidates include former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who has been meeting with former aides and returned to New Hampshire this past week. Christie has said he will make a decision “in the next couple of weeks.” Trump’s U.N. ambassador, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy have already announced their bids for the presidency.
Despite Trump’s status as the early front-runner, some strategists hope that attacks between him and DeSantis will create an opening for a fresh face to emerge as a contender. Candidates may need to cement their plans soon to be able to participate in the early debates this summer, which are expected to be crucial in building momentum. The Republican National Committee has set strict benchmarks for participation, including amassing tens of thousands of individual donors.
Candidates-in-waiting have been biding their time, visiting early voting states, delivering speeches, and wooing donors as they assess the field. However, former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker warns that anyone who thinks they can change the reality of the race dominated by Trump is mistaken. As the rivalry between Trump and DeSantis heats up, political groups supporting both men have already begun spending millions on attack ads.
As Republicans continue to jockey for position in the presidential race, Democratic nominee Joe Biden is expected to announce his 2024 campaign as early as this coming week, with minimal competition for the nomination.
Donald Trump’s super PAC, MAGA Inc., has launched attack ads against Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, highlighting his record of voting to cut Social Security and Medicare, as well as his age. The ads, which have been aired on cable news channels, seek to paint DeSantis as someone who does not share the values of Trump supporters, with one ad mocking the governor for eating pudding with his fingers and urging him to “keep his pudding fingers off our money.”
While Trump and his campaign have long seen DeSantis as his main challenger, a repeat of the 2016 Republican primary field has not materialized, with potential candidates such as former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan passing on campaigns. There are still several unknown dynamics, including whether governors like Kristi Noem of South Dakota or Chris Sununu of New Hampshire will enter the contest, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin have not ruled out running.
Republican strategist and longtime Chris Christie adviser, Mike DuHaime, believes that Trump is the favorite, but also thinks he is beatable. He cautioned that races are complicated, and unexpected outcomes can occur. While DeSantis is currently viewed as the alternative to Trump, DuHaime noted that a debate moment or news story could change the trajectory of the race. The early debates, slated to begin this summer, are expected to be crucial in determining which candidate can build momentum, with the Republican National Committee setting strict benchmarks that candidates must satisfy to participate. Candidates may need to solidify their planning soon, with Christie suggesting that decisions should be made by May.