With N.H. Primary In Full Swing, No Clear Frontrunner Among Huge GOP Field

Jan 20, 2015

GOP candidates clockwise from top left: former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kentucky U.S. Senator Rand Paul.
Credit NHPR Staff/Photo of Jeb Bush courtesy World Affairs Council, Chris Christie photo courtesy NJ National Guard

There’s still a year to go before any ballots are cast in New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary.

Still, that hasn’t stopped Republicans expected to make a run for president from hitting the campaign trail in the Granite State.

Chris Galdieri is an assistant professor of politics at St. Anselm College who specializes in presidential races.

He joins Morning Edition to give us a roundup of how the field of candidates is taking shape.

So we’re not even through January yet, still a year away from the primary. Do you see this as an early start or is this when we would expect to see candidates test the waters?

This is about when we’d see candidates starting to test the waters. We’re hitting the period during the cycle when candidates are really going to have to decide whether to fish or cut bait, whether they’re actually going to become candidates or not.

There’s a huge slate of Republicans said to be considering a run. We saw Kentucky Senator Rand Paul visit New Hampshire last week. There’s Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rick Perry.

Who do you see as the early front runners?

I don’t know that there actually is a front runner. I think this is one of the most wide open Republican races we’ve seen in a very long time. Historically, Republicans tend to nominate someone who’s a pretty familiar figure to people in the party. This year we have lots of them, and there isn’t one who’s been able to dominate the early fundraising, the early staffing.

How do you see this primary season comparing to previous years? Are we in store for a particularly busy primary?

I think we are. I think it’ll be a particularly busy season, especially because you have a very large slate of potential candidates. In addition to the people you’ve mentioned, there’s folks like Scott Walker out in Wisconsin, Mike Pence in Indiana, Carly Fiorina is talking about running. John Bolton is running. Now, not all of those candidates are equally plausible candidates, but they are all people who have some sort of a constituency in the party and who would bring something to the race that they think the other candidates would not.

What’s the strategy for Republicans looking to set up that network of support they’ll need here in the Granite State?

They want to talk to people who have been active in past campaigns, people who have been campaign managers or staffers or strategists in the past. People who can help them fundraise, people who can help them staff up, people who can help them lock down talent before other candidates can.

So they’re just staffing up right now, or even just considering staffing up? They just want to see if there’s anybody here who wants to work for them?

Exactly. In a lot of ways, what the candidates and potential candidates are doing now is almost like auditioning for state party activists, managers, staffers, strategists, and that sort of thing.

Of course, one big surprise has been reports of Mitt Romney considering a third run. What are his prospects realistically of making a comeback after his loss in 2012?

I don’t think they’re great. Historically, you have to go back to Richard Nixon to see someone who ran, lost, and then won their party’s nomination, and managed to win a general election. I think for a lot of Republicans, they look at 2012 as an election that they could have won or should have won. So I think there’s a fair amount of blame that Republicans place on Romney.

That said, he was very active in the 2014 cycle. He does have a network of fundraisers that is fairly specific to him and is not one that a lot of other Republicans would have access to. I’d never say never, but I think right now it seems like an interesting prospect for Romney and really dedicated Romney supporters, but I think if he ever were to run, the reality of having him on the stage with eight other candidates in Iowa or New Hampshire would just look strange. We haven’t seen that in the modern campaign era and I think there’s a good reason for that.

Let’s take a look at the Democratic side.

Hillary Clinton is presumed to be the big frontrunner, but we’re already seeing efforts here in New Hampshire to get Massachusetts U.S. Elizabeth Warren into the race.

She insists she’s not running, so what do you make of this push to change her mind? Could it work?

I think it’s unlikely to work. I suppose that if for some reason Hillary Clinton were not going to run and there’s no indication that she’s not going to at this point, there’d be a lot of pressure on Warren to enter the race. I think what the “Draft Warren” effort is about trying to push the economic agenda of the Democratic Party to the left. It’s about trying to remind the Democratic frontrunner in this case Hillary Clinton that there’s a very large constituency in the party that wants to see things like a higher minimum wage, wants to see expanded overtime rules, want to make it easier for workers to unionize and all those sorts of things.