As Pence, Christie jump into GOP presidential race, also-rans in both parties remain long shots

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An unusual thing happened the other day.

A prominent Republican announced he is not running for president because he doesn’t want to add to the growing anti-Trump field – and ensure the former president’s nomination.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a moderate conservative, said he wanted to be more “candid” than he could be as a candidate. He says he wants the GOP to attract more independents and younger voters, “making sure this is about the Republican Party, not just about the former president.”

Of course, Sununu may also have looked at the landscape and decided he didn’t have a chance in hell. Both things can be true.

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Chris Sununu

Republican New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu on Friday implied that recreational marijuana legalization may not be a lost cause in the Granite State, suggesting it may still be feasible if regulated like wine and spirits. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack, File)

His impact is negligible because Mike Pence and Chris Christie are taking the leap, along with the governor of North Dakota (bonus points for knowing his name).

Pence’s problem is that he has alienated elements of both sides. MAGA Republicans who think his former boss was robbed resent him for not blocking the Electoral College certification on Jan. 6. More moderate voters know he was Trump’s loyal VP for four years. 

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Christie sees his role as pummeling Trump on the debate stage (because Trump may skip the early debates and Christie may not meet the RNC’s absurdly high threshold of having 40,000 donors). But the former New Jersey governor will liven up the race by calling out Trump by name, as opposed to these vague “we must break the culture of losing”comments that don’t actually mention him.

“While the two men have a long personal relationship,” the Wall Street Journal notes, “it deteriorated faster once Christie became critical of Trump after he lost the 2020 election and refused to concede.”

“Donald Trump says he would end the war in Ukraine in 24 hours tonight on CNN,” Christie recently tweeted. “Despite how ridiculous that is to say, I suspect he would try to do it by turning Ukraine over to Putin and Russia. #Putin’sPuppet.”

Vladimir Putin sitting

Russian President Vladimir Putin addresses members of the Russian National Guard Troops to congratulate them on their professional holiday, in Moscow on March 27, 2023.  (GAVRIIL GRIGOROV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

Throw in Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley and Tim Scott (who was smart enough to go on “The View” and confront his liberal critics), and others, and you have a field approaching 2016 proportions.

I know it’s early, but at the moment, DeSantis is the only one who appears to have a real shot at upending Trump.

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On the Democratic side, where polls and focus groups show even voters who admire the president’s accomplishments worried about his age, no serious challenger has emerged.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who just did a two-hour Twitter chat with Elon Musk, is an anti-vax crusader who says the Democrats are under the control of the pharmaceutical industry. But he’s reached as high as 19% in the Democratic polls, and a Trafalga Group survey says two-thirds of those with an opinion on the matter attribute this to dissatisfaction with Joe Biden.

RFK Jr. at New Hampshire Statehouse

Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr (center), flanked by New Hampshire state Senate president Jeb Bradley (left) and state House Speaker Sherman Packard (right), at the Statehouse in Concord, N.H. on June 1, 2023 (N.H. Senate)

If you’re taking a poll with Biden as the front-runner, and the only alternatives are Kennedy (and Marianne Williamson), they become vehicles for a protest vote.   

Cornel West, the former Harvard professor, is now running for president on the People’s Party line, saying “neither political party wants to tell the truth about Wall Street, about Ukraine, about the Pentagon, about big tech.”

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West won’t go far, but his far-left agenda could attract some progressive Democrats or prompt them to stay home.

In both parties, then, most of the long-shot candidates are just that – which is why a Biden-Trump rematch has become the preferred media narrative.



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