It is probably easier to count Reps who do not want to be president

Even Jeb Bush jokes about very crowded (and counting) GOP’s presidential field. Why is it so crowded, in our opinion and could it be an advantage or maybe a disadvantage for Reps, or basically it does not matter at this stage? Read few comments.

Eric Ostermeier, Research Associate, Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, University of Minnesota

There are many candidates in the 2016 Republican field this cycle for multiple reasons. First, and most fundamentally, there is no Republican incumbent president running for reelection (unlike 2004) and secondly, it is an open seat race (unlike 2012). The combination of these variables provides an attractive political environment for many Republicans with White House ambitions to take a chance and run for the office.

Secondly, the Republican Party is perhaps increasingly fractured between its social conservative wing of the party (e.g. Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson), its establishment wing (e.g. Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, George Pataki), and its libertarian wing (e.g. Rand Paul). That means it is unlikely a frontrunner will emerge until late in the campaign, although some analysts believe Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker bridges voters from both the establishment and social conservative wings. In 2012, many different Republicans candidates led in the national polls at different stages of the campaign and many of these candidates in 2016 will have a chance on the campaign trail or debate stage to seize their moment and become that frontrunner.

After this week there will be 10 Republicans officially in the race and while that is less than the 12 who ran at one point during the 2012 cycle, it is almost certain that number will be closer to 15 by the end of the summer.

The crowded field is an advantage to some candidates, such as Rand Paul, who would probably not have a chance in a one-on-one primary against an establishment candidate like Jeb Bush. Senator Paul, like his father Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012, probably has a ceiling of support of 20 to 25 percent in many of the primary states. While a crowded field decreases his support, it also does so for the establishment candidates.

There is one variable that remains to be determined: will the particularly crowded field in 2016 see the Republican candidates become more fierce in their criticisms of each other – to distinguish themselves among primary and caucus voters – or will they mostly campaign against the Democrats/Barack Obama/Hillary Clinton? The candidate who navigates both of those roads the best might have the inside track to becoming the frontrunner.

Nicholas Easton, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Administration, Columbus State University

Of course, American politics is always quite unpredictable, maybe even more so in the current atmosphere where the two parties are so deeply divided and so close in how they split the electorate. One must also remember that in American politics it’s a winner take all system, raising two questions for the current scenario. First, how well does the process work for winnowing the field to the best candidate, and second, how does the winning candidate stand up against the opposition. That’s what makes this current process so fascinating.

There are two significant reasons why the current Republican field is so large. Most importantly, there is just no clear front runner. The party has no previous also-ran who came very close under unique circumstances (though some could argue that Mitt Romney fit that category), and no candidate who emerged from the pack by some clear level of statesmanship or leadership. This, of course, brings us to the second reason, which is that the Republican Party is so divided at this point in time, so much so that it might even be called shattered because there are so many different directions in which different candidates seem to be wanting to lead the party. Importantly though, not so much that it can’t be put back together after the primary season because dislike of Obama whether for his persona or his policies has so united the Republicans as the anti-Obama party.

So could this divisiveness and the attendant large field of candidates be a blessing? It could, if the process ends up by producing the strongest candidate against the likely Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately for the Republicans, this seems at the moment to be extremely unclear. Furthermore, each of the candidates seems to have some element that would make them a strong challenger to Clinton usually coupled with some element that is a significant problem for them in the race. Let’s take some examples.

Jeb Bush is deemed likable and centrist by most of the electorate, but he takes away one of the biggest factors that Republicans hope to use which is Clinton fatigue, as Bush fatigue is easily as strong. Rand Paul makes a great appeal to younger voters on whom Democrats are counting, because of his libertarian views that include some degree of tolerance on social issues and an isolationist stand on foreign affairs but this is a pretty extreme position for most of the electorate. Marco Rubio can pick up the much needed Hispanic vote, but it’s not clear how much, given the issues and the Republican’0s track record on same, and his youthful appearance and relative inexperience could be a negative. Scott Walker has an anti-union record that plays well with conservatives but risks alienating the essential middle-class vote. The list goes on.

In short, it is much too early to make any sense out of the Republican race. All in all, it has to be deemed a positive to have such a huge field. While this can often be a problem because the bruising battles often alienate elements of your party that you need to unite for the general election, America is so divided between right and left at this point in time that it’s unlikely that Republicans will have much trouble uniting at the end of the battle. The bigger problem is that the exposure that this field will garner will likely begin to show the weaknesses in the individual candidates as well as the difficulties the Republicans have on some of the issues, examples being gay rights, immigration, wage inequality, etc. Either way, it’s going to be interesting.

Steffen SchmidtUniversity Professor of Political Science, Iowa State University

My analysis is that a very big field is the result of

1. An “open” election with no incumbent so many different contenders want a chance to sell their ideas.

2. The wide ranging diversity of Republican voters – The latest Iowa Poll, the most accurate in the country, shows that they are almost equally divided on some issues:

* subsidies for ethanol or wind power for 45% Against 46% (and this is a HUGE issue in Iowa the leading ethanol and second wind state)

* Protecting Americans from terrorism more important than privacy 49% agree but 42% disagree

* The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) infringes on rights of landowners Agree 44% Disagee 51%

Should candidates spend time talking about the following:

* Cost of college 50% No 50% Yes

* Abortion Yes 48% No 51% (this was a big surprise)

*The candidate’s religious beliefs Yes 42% No 58%  (another surprise)

* Same Sex marriage Yes 38% No 60%

So Andrej, there is room for many different positions by candidates on these issues which is why each of the now 10 and soon 15 Republicans running has some percentage of voter support.

HOWEVER, it is obviously impossible to have a campaign with this many candidates because they need to accumulate enough delegates state by state to get nominated.

And some such as Jeb Bush, may not do well in Iowa or New Hampshire but he probably can win the Florida primary election so this primary season could drag on. As you know, there are supporters for Rand Paul the Libertarian Republican, all the way to the most extreme candidate such as Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. The Fox debate of 10 top contenders will be interesting to watch!

The great danger is that NO ONE will have enough delegates to get the nomination at the national convention this summer. Then it will be a bloody fight on TV amongst the candidates to get delegates and many “deals” will be made as in the past. That will be fun for us the reporters and pundits and it will be fun for the public to watch. BUT it will be stressful for the Republican party.


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