Unlike many Republican nominating contests, this campaign is beginning with no dominant front-runner. Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida appeals to some establishment-aligned Republicans, particularly donors, but party hard-liners are resistant. Center-right Republicans are skeptical that another Bush can be elected president, and want to see how rank-and-file primary voters receive him. And with Mr. Romney now considering a third bid, some of the movement toward Mr. Bush will taper off, at least momentarily.
“Romney putting his foot in the door slows down that process,” said Ryan Call, the Colorado Republican chairman. “It creates an opening and opportunity for other candidates to get some oxygen.”
One of those hopefuls is Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who used a speech here to call for Republicans to embrace “a new, fresh approach.” The remarks were explicitly aimed at Mrs. Clinton, but there was little doubt that Mr. Walker also was trying to set himself apart from Mr. Bush and Mr. Romney.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has also begun making the case privately to Republican leaders that nominating Mr. Bush or Mr. Romney would rob the party of a chance to portray Mrs. Clinton as a relic, according to one party official who recently met with Mr. Christie.
In addition to the establishment-oriented Republicans, even more hopefuls are vying for the support of ideologically driven activists. As with the center-right group, there are both familiar and fresher faces. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas all have experience running for president and are lining up again. Then there are such newer prospects as Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and the neurosurgeon Ben Carson.At Five Thirty Eight, Nate Silver pictures the field as a five-ring circus (below) I would quibble on two points.
- First, I don't think that the "moderate" and "establishment" factions are really different. They're basically the same thing.
- Second, the graph suggests that the factions are all the same size. They are not. As a previous post noted, the moderate-establishment wing is by far the largest. And it is not clear that there even is a distinct libertarian wing, at least among people who vote in Republican primaries. (Ron Paul never won one.)