pence christie SPLIT
2024 GOP field widens as Pence and Christie join race
03:06 - Source: CNN

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CNN  — 

The first Republican primary debate won’t occur until August. The first primaries and caucuses won’t occur until early next year.

But the 2024 presidential primary campaign is well underway.

There’s a growing field of declared candidates who will begin traveling around early primary states, appearing in interviews and jockeying for attention. Super PACs aligned with their interests are already doing battle on the airwaves.

Here are the currently declared Republican presidential candidates, sorted by their place in the most recent CNN poll of the potential GOP primary electorate.

Donald Trump

Announced campaign: November 2022

The divisive former president is the prohibitive Republican frontrunner despite his efforts to overturn the 2020 election he lost. The primary is just getting going and there won’t be any voting until early 2024, but Trump has worked hard to kneecap his top current rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

A major complication for Trump is his legal uncertainty. His criminal trial in New York for alleged involvement in a hush-money payment scheme before the 2016 election will get underway in tandem with voting in the 2024 primary.

He could face additional charges, both at the federal level and in Fulton County, Georgia. But those investigations have been ongoing for years now, and it’s not clear any allegations will hurt his strength among many Republican voters.

Ron DeSantis

Announced campaign: May 2023

While Trump and his supporters got to work hammering DeSantis with TV ads, the Florida governor was at work building an argument in his home state.

Riding high from an overwhelming reelection victory in 2022, DeSantis used a GOP majority in the Florida legislature to enact measures related to curbing access to abortion, ending educational diversity initiatives, curbing LGBTQ rights and more.

While he lacks Trump’s baggage on the legal front, DeSantis also lacks Trump’s personality. Plus, his standoff with Disney over a bill to limit when sexual orientation and gender identity can be discussed in schools has not gone as DeSantis might have planned.

Mike Pence

Announced campaign: June 2023

As Trump’s vice president, Pence refused to sidestep the Constitution and help Trump overturn the 2020 election results. While Pence’s profile in courage placed him in the physical path of January 6, 2021, insurrectionists storming the Capitol, it also could complicate his run for president.

He’ll be challenging his former boss but has tried very hard not to be too critical of Trump. Pence will try, in particular, to appeal to evangelical voters, who for years have formed a reliable base for the GOP.

Nikki Haley

Announced campaign: February 2023

Haley has a stellar resume. Elected governor of a Southern state and selected as Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, she would be the first woman and first non-White Republican nominee if she can somehow emerge with the nomination.

Much younger than Trump or President Joe Biden, Haley has made age a centerpiece of her campaign and argued for some kind of age-based competency test – an interesting idea in terms of scoring points against older candidates, but also a potential turnoff for primary voters in a party that skews older.

Tim Scott

Announced campaign: May 2023

The South Carolina senator is the only Black Republican in the US Senate. He has built the rarity of his biography to argue he disrupts the narrative of American politics.

Although appealing to conservatives, Scott has a record of actually working across party lines on police reform and more. But Trump, at least, has not viewed him as a threat. The former president, who has mercilessly attacked DeSantis, congratulated Scott on entering the race.

Chris Christie

Announced campaign: June 2023

A former New Jersey governor and onetime Trump cheerleader, Christie had a falling out with Trump over Covid-19 – Christie was extremely ill after potentially contracting the virus at the White House – as well as the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

He now wants to focus the skills he honed as a US attorney on Trump and make an appeal as the Republican who can win the general election. Convincing the hard-line base of the party will be difficult for a person viewed more as a moderate.

Vivek Ramaswamy

Vivek Ramaswamy speaks during the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off in April 2023.

Announced campaign: February 2023

A biotech and health care entrepreneur who also writes books opposing corporate “wokeism” and identity politics, Ramaswamy is a long-shot candidate unknown by most Americans.

RELATED: Ramaswamy would raise the voting age to 25

Asa Hutchinson

Announced campaign: April 2023

The former Arkansas governor and congressman announced his campaign arguing against isolationism and for civility in campaigning. Those messages have not yet caught on in polling.

RELATED: Hutchinson promises to be Trump alternative

Doug Burgum

Announced campaign: June 2023

A virtual unknown nationally, the North Dakota governor registers in the single digits in CNN’s most recent poll. Building his wealth from a software company he bet the family farm to start, Burgum wants to be a business-oriented alternative and will point to his record as governor.

Burgum announced his campaign in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. Like most GOP candidates, he will struggle to find oxygen in a field that so far has been dominated by Trump.

Larry Elder

Larry Elder in 2021, when he was running unsuccessfully for governor of California.

Announced campaign: April 2023

The conservative talk radio host has never held elective office, but he was the top Republican vote-getter in the unsuccessful 2021 effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Opting out

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had both openly flirted with a potential run, but both have said they will not run.

Polling shows Trump over DeSantis at this very early moment

DeSantis (26%) is a distant second to Trump (53%), according to the CNN poll conducted nationally by SSRS of Republican and Republican-leaning voters and released in late May.

Both Pence and Haley got 6% support as the top pick.

Who could the GOP electorate support? Not support?

There are some interesting points as you drill into that polling data, as CNN’s political director David Chalian explained on “Inside Politics.”

“We asked people, in addition to your first choice, who would you be open to supporting in this race,” Chalian said.

The results – current top choice plus who they would consider supporting – are a bit different:

  • DeSantis: 85%.
  • Trump: 84%.
  • Haley: 61%.
  • Scott: 60%.
  • Pence: 54%.

That’s good news for those candidates, Chalian argued. It’s bad news, on the flip side, for people who a majority of Republican and Republican-leaning voters said they would not support:

  • Christie: 60% would not support.
  • Hutchinson: 55%.
  • Sununu: 55%.

Note that those top three in the “would not support” list – of whom only Hutchinson has declared an official run – are the more moderate voices in the party.

Look at the movement

Chalian also looked at the trajectory of candidates in the polling numbers.

Trump has gained, from 40% support in the potential GOP primary electorate in March to 53% now.

DeSantis, before he formally declared his campaign, has fallen, from 36% support in March to 26% now.

That could mean the Republican race will ultimately be a test of who can take on Trump.

This story has been updated with additional information.