Mike Pence joins US Presidential race; expanding GOP field may favour Trump

Experts believe the sheer number of anti-Trump candidates could cancel each other out

trump-pic-afp Supporters of former US president Donald Trump react as his motorcade makes its way to Palm Beach International Airport in Palm Beach, Florida | AFP

With former US vice-president Mike Pence filing paperwork declaring his campaign for President in 2024, the groundwork has been laid for a crowded GOP Presidential race, though the primaries are nearly a year away. 

The GOP field is already big enough with seven candidates; former President Donald Trump and his once-protege Florida Governor Ron DeSantis emerging frontrunners, but more - former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum- are likely to join the fray this week. 

While a section of political analysts opine that a bigger Republican field hints at the different directions the party is taking, the scenario may come to favour Trump since the sheer number of candidates could cancel each other out.

Of the seven candidates, excluding Pence, Donald Trump is a clear forerunner with 53% support. That’s up from 48% in early May, said Yahoo News/YouGov poll survey. 

Ron DeSantis, widely considered Trump's leading rival, could only muster 25% support. Interestingly, his support seems to wane as the Florida Governor had 28 per cent support before he threw his hat in the ring. His bungled Twitter announcement didn't help him either. 

And as for the new entrants, Pence, Christie and Burghum are long-shot candidates by any measure. While none of the current candidates, except DeSantis, can influence Trump’s core support base, they can split anti-Trump votes. 

"I'm very concerned that we appear to be making the same mistakes that we made in 2016," Larry Hogan, a popular former Republican governor of Maryland and a fierce critic of Trump, was quoted by Reuters. 

He believes a large field of contenders would only help Trump to repeat his 2016 victory when he bested 17 major candidates. "It's better for us to have a smaller field with a strong candidate or two rather than 10 or more people who are failing to get attention, who are all in single digits in opinion polls," Hogan added.

While Pence has the backing of Iowa evangelicals, another contender South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who boasts a three per cent support base, is popular among college-educated suburbanites. None of them poses a threat to Trump but will eat into the new candidates' base.

According to New Hampshire-based Republican strategist Dave Carney, this is a gigantic problem for DeSantis. "Because whatever percentage they get makes it difficult for the second-place guy to win because there’s just not the available vote," Carney told The New York Times. 

Trump seems to be welcoming the competition already, which he hopes will repeat the 2016 scenario. "Good luck to Senator Tim Scott in entering the Republican Presidential Primary Race," Trump wrote. "It is rapidly loading up with lots of people, and Tim is a big step up from Ron DeSanctimonious, who is totally unelectable," he wrote. 

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