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3 More Republicans Join US Presidential Race


FILE - Ben Carson arrives to speak during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.

Three Republicans are joining the 2016 presidential race this week in what is shaping up to be a very crowded and competitive battle for the party’s presidential nomination.

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson became the first African-American to enter the Republican primary race for 2016. Carson made the announcement in his home town of Detroit, Michigan, where he was raised by a single mother under difficult circumstances, but went on to a distinguished career in medicine.

Carson was the head of the pediatric neurosurgery unit at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore and was the first surgeon to separate conjoined twins connected at the back of the head.

Carson is a favorite of social conservatives and during his announcement speech he vowed to rein in the power of the central government if elected president next year.

“I think the government as described in our Constitution is wonderful. But now we've gone far beyond what our Constitution describes and we’ve begun to just allow it to expand based on what the political class wants because they like to increase their power and their dominion over the people and I think it is time for the people to rise up and take the government back.”

Carson came to prominence two years ago when he criticized the Obama administration’s health care law. But at times Carson has made comments that have sparked a negative reaction, such as when he compared the health care law to slavery and in a recent interview said homosexuality was voluntary.

Fiorina Makes a Bid

Joining Carson in the Republican field Monday was another political outsider, former technology executive Carly Fiorina, the first woman in the GOP field for 2016. Fiorina is the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard who lost a Senate race in California in 2010 and, like Carson, has never held elective office.

Fiorina said her private sector experience sets her apart from the rest of the field.

“I think I am the best person for the job because I understand how the economy actually works. I understand the world, who is in it, how the world works and I understand bureaucracies and that is what our federal government has become.”

Fiorina told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program she sees her lack of political experience as an asset for the 2016 campaign.

“Our nation was intended to be a citizen government and somehow we have come to this place in our nation’s history where we think we need a professional political class. I don’t believe that and I will tell you as I’ve been out there across the country, people don’t believe that either. They are kind of tired of the political class.”

Fiorina has also emerged as a fierce critic of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. She has seized on questions about Clinton’s use of a private email account while secretary of state and raised concerns about her handling of the terrorist attacks on U.S. posts in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012 that led to the deaths of four Americans.

U.S. presidential candidates, as of May 4, 2015
U.S. presidential candidates, as of May 4, 2015

More Contenders to Come

A third Republican, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, will join the race Tuesday. Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa Caucus vote, but lost out to eventual Republican nominee John McCain that year. Huckabee is trying to make a comeback after eight years off the campaign trail. His calling card this year is that he was able to beat what he calls “the Clinton Machine” in Arkansas when he was elected governor.

Three other Republicans officially entered the race previously, Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida.

More contenders will join the field in the coming weeks in what analysts expect to be a hard-fought battle for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

“It is the behind the scenes contest now. It is getting endorsements and activists and staff, the right people to run your campaign. It is certainly raising money and showing that you are a strong figure that will be able to stay throughout the race,” said John Fortier of the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington.

Public opinion polls show a top tier of Republicans at the moment that includes Rubio, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Fortier adds Cruz and Paul to that first group with the other contenders lagging behind. “I think those five represent the top tier at this point, but we may see more. We may see 10 or 12 candidates on the Republican side and it will take a while to shake out.”

Hillary Clinton remains a strong frontrunner for the Democrats and now has one official challenger, independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley is slated to join the field soon and two others may as well, former Virginia senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, who used to be a Republican.

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    Jim Malone

    Jim Malone has served as VOA’s National correspondent covering U.S. elections and politics since 1995. Prior to that he was a VOA congressional correspondent and served as VOA’s East Africa Correspondent from 1986 to 1990. Jim began his VOA career with the English to Africa Service in 1983.