The Republican Party primary field is growing bigger.
Sen Tim Scott (R-S.C.) made his candidacy official Monday. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to launch his campaign Wednesday.
DeSantis’s entry into the race has been keenly anticipated in part because he is widely agreed to be the most serious rival to former President Trump.
Here are The Hill’s rankings of where the contenders stand right now.
1. Former President Trump
Former US president Donald Trump plays golf at Turnberry golf course, Scotland, during his visit to the UK, Tuesday May 2, 2023. (Jane Barlow/PA via AP)
Trump is the dominant figure in the race — and the clear front-runner.
His polling lead has grown steadily in the past two months. In late March, Trump led DeSantis by about 19 points in the national polling average maintained by FiveThirtyEight. On Tuesday afternoon, his advantage had widened to more than 30 points.
The change has been fueled by missteps from Trump’s political opponents and outside adversaries rather than any obviously stellar move from the former president himself.
DeSantis has stagnated of late, having made the most memorable gaffe of the 2024 cycle to date in March when he referred to the war in Ukraine as a mere “territorial dispute.”
On the legal front, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s (D) decision, in early April, to indict Trump on 34 counts of falsifying business records sparked a rallying-around effect among GOP voters. Even some of the president’s critics regard Bragg’s case as flimsy.
Trump allies were also gleeful about his performance at a CNN town hall earlier this month — and about the criticism of the network in the aftermath.
The former president remains a highly risky choice for a general election.
The specter of Jan. 6, 2021, hangs over him, he is intensely disliked by a large swath of America and a jury in a civil case earlier this month found him liable for the sexual abuse of E. Jean Carroll — just one of many allegations regarding the mistreatment of women.
As a matter of pure politics, however, Trump is well ahead of everyone else in the battle for the GOP nomination.
2. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
DeSantis faces some real challenges in the 2024 presidential race, which he is expected to enter Wednesday. (Associated Press)
DeSantis is the only other candidate whose support seems to pose a real threat to Trump.
The Florida governor speaks a language that thrills many in the GOP base, with his boast that his state is “where woke goes to die,” and his willingness to insert himself into controversies over abortion, race and sexuality, among other topics.
But there are real challenges for DeSantis, beyond his Ukraine misstep.
Some fear that his focus on social issues could hurt in a general election. On abortion, for example, his decision to sign a six-week ban makes him more hard-line than Trump.
DeSantis also has a reputation for social awkwardness, so any uncomfortable encounters on the campaign trail will be amplified by the media.
3. Former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley
Haley’s supporters contend that her conservative positions and affable personality make her a strong presidential candidate. (Associated Press)
Haley got into the race in mid-February, beating a lot of other potential rivals to the punch.
She has not so far gained much traction in national polls, but her allies are putting a lot of chips on the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, and on her purported ability to outwork other candidates.
She is at least making some progress. A poll in Iowa last month gave her 14 percent support, enough for a respectable third place and separation from the rest of the field.
Haley combines very strongly conservative positions with an affable persona. Her supporters contend this makes her more electable — and harder to paint as an extremist — than Trump or DeSantis.
It’s also theoretically possible that she could be a “third option” beneficiary if a Trump-DeSantis slugfest turns out to be especially bloody.
If she were to somehow pull out a win, she would be the first woman and first person of color to become the GOP’s presidential nominee.
4. Sen. Tim Scott (S.C.)
Scott, who announced his presidential run this week, has already won the endorsements of two Senate colleagues. (Associated Press)
Scott shares a broadly similar appeal to Haley — a firm conservative who is not considered personally objectionable even by people who disagree with him.
The sole Black Republican in the Senate, Scott offers his own life story as a rebuttal to progressive claims about the inescapability of systemic American racism. He has accused Democrats of weaponizing race and of fostering a culture of “grievance” — music to the ears of conservatives who extol the virtues of personal responsibility.
Scott instantly won the endorsement of two of his colleagues, Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.). He also has a well-financed super PAC supporting his bid.
But Scott and Haley complicate the calculus for each other simply by virtue of both being South Carolinians.
Right now, each of them is striving to be seen as a credible alternative to Trump and DeSantis.
5. Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin
Recent reports have seemed to indicate that Youngkin is reconsidering a presidential run. (Associated Press)
Youngkin had seemed to rule out a 2024 bid several weeks ago. But now, the political world is abuzz with rumors that the door might not be so firmly shut after all.
The first shift came last week, when Youngkin released an ad that was notably presidential in tone.
That was followed by an Axios report Monday that he was “reconsidering” a campaign.
Youngkin won plenty of fans within the party with his 2021 victory in a state that President Biden had carried comfortably just 12 months before.
Some big donors may also be looking for an alternative to DeSantis who is capable of vanquishing Trump.
6. Former Vice President Pence
Pence faces challenges with the GOP primary electorate concerning his actions on the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. (Associated Press)
In a normal political environment, Pence would have a strong shot.
He has deep roots in the evangelical movement. He is an assured and relentlessly on-message media performer. He was vice president to the most recent Republican president.
The problem for Pence, who has not yet entered the race, appears to come down to Jan. 6.
The GOP primary electorate does not take a positive view of Pence’s resistance to Trump’s demands to help overturn the 2020 election – even if history does.
In an Economist/YouGov poll in April, 36 percent of Republicans said they held an unfavorable view of Pence.
It’s tough to see how that is surmountable.
7. Vivek Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy has had success with scoring headline-grabbing proposals, though he likely has no real chance of going all the way to victory. (Associated Press)
Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur with no political background to speak of, has at least made some kind of dent in the polls.
He scores around 3 percent in the FiveThirtyEight national average, which is not much lower than Haley.
Ramaswamy, who is just 37, has a knack for headline-grabbing proposals, for good or for bad. One such idea is to raise the voting age to 25 unless younger people commit to public service or pass a test.
Ramaswamy has a negligible chance of going all the way to victory. But he could easily find a niche as a youthful, anti-establishment iconoclast.
8. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
Christie, who endorsed Trump early in 2016, has since become one of his most vocal Republican critics. (Associated Press)
Christie would be the most vociferously anti-Trump candidate if he chose to join the race.
Although he endorsed Trump early in the 2016 campaign — and ran his transition team after the general election — he has barely missed an opportunity to knock Trump more recently.
He has called Trump’s 2024 campaign a “vanity exercise,” mocked Trump as “Putin’s puppet” over his Ukraine policy and called the former president’s reaction to the E. Jean Carroll verdict “ridiculous.”
But it’s incredibly tough to see a path to victory for Christie himself.
9. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
Former Arkansas governor and 2024 Presidential hopeful Asa Hutchinson poses for photographers as he arrives at the annual White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Hutchinson, the two-term former governor of Arkansas, formally kicked off his campaign last month.
Hutchinson is, in many ways, a throwback — a mild-mannered, business-friendly conservative.
But he is almost certainly too low-wattage for a campaign being fought among huge personalities. So far, he barely registers in national polls.
10. North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum speaks at the state Capitol on April 10, 2020, in Bismarck, N.D. (Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)
CBS News reported last week that Burgum was close to launching “a dark horse bid for the White House.”
The news was received with a mixture of curiosity and indifference. Outside of his native state, only political obsessives know who Burgum is.
The governor is a social conservative who has enjoyed a very successful business career. He is also a rank outsider.