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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

The 2024 GOP field balloons this week, adding 3 new candidates

Former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, former Vice President Mike Pence and Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota are set to announce their runs for the presidency this week.

By Trip Gabriel

The growing field of Republicans running for president is set to expand by three this week, with the entry of former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Vice President Mike Pence and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. The field continues to expand in part because hopefuls see opportunity in the struggle of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to become the undisputed challenger to former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis trails Trump by about 30 points in national polls of Republican voters. No one else is close, but with 1 in 4 Republicans still looking for an alternative to the two front-runners, a fierce competition to be that other option is emerging.

All three of the latest entrants are considered long shots, at least for now.

But each will get a momentary burst of attention when declaring his candidacy, with the hope that from small sparks a brush fire will spread.

Chris Christie

When: Tuesday

Where: A town-hall-style event at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics outside Manchester.

Christie, who dropped out of the 2016 primary early and became a supporter of Trump’s, has cast himself as the former president’s harshest critic in the Republican field. He says Trump is unfit to serve after inciting the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. Christie’s team recently said that he would run a campaign focused on “mixing it up in the news cycle and engaging Trump.”

But being an outspoken Trump critic has so far paid few dividends. Among 10 declared or potential 2024 candidates tested in a Monmouth poll last week, Christie was viewed the most negatively by Republican voters (21% viewed him favorably and 47% unfavorably). His strategy is to make it onto a debate stage, where his trademark pugilism, he has promised, will be aimed at Trump.

Christie is likely to campaign heavily in New Hampshire, where a large number of independents are expected to vote in the primary next year, offering Christie his best opportunity to damage Trump.

Mike Pence

When: Wednesday

Where: A rally with voters in Des Moines, Iowa, followed by a CNN town hall at 9 p.m. Eastern.

Pence brought credibility with social conservatives to the 2016 ticket, but his star faded with the party base after he refused to comply with Trump’s efforts to block President Joe Biden’s victory. As an evangelical Christian and former Indiana governor, Pence is a natural fit with Iowa conservatives, and he is likely to focus much of his campaigning there in the hope of a strong showing in the first nominating contest next year. His campaign intends to reintroduce him to voters as his own man, not Trump’s No. 2.

But Pence, who espouses traditional Ronald Reagan-esque views on economic and foreign policy — he supports aid to Ukraine — finds himself at odds with the current populist thrust of the party. In the Monmouth poll, he had the second-highest unfavorable number (35%, versus 46% favorable). When Fox News host Sean Hannity mentioned at a town hall with Trump on Thursday that Pence would soon join the race, there were boos.

Doug Burgum

When: Wednesday

Where: Fargo, North Dakota.

Burgum, who is little-known outside his home state, made a large fortune in computer software and is in a position to self-fund his longer-than-long-shot campaign. He has said he believes that 60% of American voters constitute a “silent majority” that feels ignored by intense ideological debates that dominate politics.

“There’s definitely a yearning for some alternatives right now,” Burgum told a Fargo news site.

Energy policy is central to his message: As governor, Burgum set a goal of reaching carbon neutrality in North Dakota by 2030. He aimed to do so not by diminishing dependence on fossil fuels, a key part of the state’s economy, but by accelerating technology to capture carbon emissions in the ground.

Burgum is low-key and notably not aligned with Trump-style populism. That means that, in addition to being little known, he will be paddling against the current in today’s Republican rapids.

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