How many will be on the starting line in early 2024, when Republican voters in Iowa and New Hampshire brave winter to kick off the race for the Republican nomination? Will Donald Trump face a handful of determined candidates, or a melee of suitors trying to make themselves heard?
There are still more than six months before the start of the primaries, and some will have thrown in the towel by then. In the meantime, ambitions are displayed. This week alone, three new contenders should enter the arena, bringing the total of candidates to ten. The most anticipated of these newcomers is not one, since it is Mike Pence, vice-president of Donald Trump. Monday June 5, he submitted his candidacy, before formalizing it on Wednesday June 7 in Iowa.
Evangelical Christian, Mike Pence had, in 2016, helped Donald Trump to mobilize a skeptical religious right against this ex-democrat better known for his escapades than for his prayers. Loyal to the president despite the many storms that have shaken his mandate, he only broke with him after the assault on the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Assault of which Mike Pence was the target: some demonstrators called to “hang” the vice-president, who was preparing to play the role provided for by the Constitution by confirming the result of the presidential election, namely the defeat of Donald Trump.
Tuesday, June 6, another ex-ally of Donald Trump should enter the track: Chris Christie, 60, former governor of New Jersey, already in the running for the Republican nomination in 2016 before rallying, quite early, to the magnate of real estate. Since then, he has become his most aggressive opponent, not hesitating to attack him head-on – Donald Trump is “Putin’s puppet”, Chris Christie recently released on Twitter.
For the moment, all these candidates, as well as Doug Burgum, the unknown governor of North Dakota who will launch on Wednesday, are, at best, only second knives. The least badly placed of them, Mike Pence, does not even reach 4% in voting intentions, very far from Donald Trump (53%) and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (22%). But in this long game of chess that are the primaries, everyone has their own strategy. Mike Pence wants to repeat the coup of Jimmy Carter in 1976, left behind in the polls before winning in Iowa and ending up president. He is betting everything on this Midwestern state where the Republican Party is very linked to evangelicals. Chris Christie, meanwhile, hopes to get out of the peloton during the second stage of this electoral tour of America, New Hampshire, renowned for giving the yellow jersey to atypical candidates.
In the meantime, a man is rubbing his hands: Donald Trump. The more opponents he has, the more the anti-Trump vote splits up and strengthens his chances of victory. “The more the merrier, the merrier,” he said on Fox News after the entry into the race of the only female Republican candidate, Nikki Haley. Conversely, Ron DeSantis, his most serious rival, dreams of a face-to-face, uniting on his name all the Republicans tired of the excesses of Donald Trump.