WASHINGTON - The Republican presidential field stands at an even dozen with the recent additions of real estate mogul Donald Trump and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.
But we could have as many as four additional candidates in the race by the end of July, making this Republican field by far the largest in modern U.S. political history.
There is a growing consensus among pundits and analysts that the latest addition to the Republican field could have an impact once the candidate debates begin in early August.
New York real estate entrepreneur Donald Trump jumped into the 2016 race in recent days with a pledge to bring back the American dream and a vow to build a wall along the border with Mexico to keep out illegal immigrants.
“Our country needs a truly great leader," he said. "We need somebody that literally will take this country and make it great again.”
Trump could turn out to be a wild card in the upcoming Republican debates, assuming he is one of the 10 contenders who rate highly enough in the polls to be included.
Trump’s television experience as a reality TV star and his reputation for outlandish statements could set him apart from the rest of the Republican field, a group that includes several contenders who lack the kind of name recognition that Trump has.
Quinnipiac pollster Peter Brown said Trump’s entrance into the 2016 race has the potential to shake things up.
“Mr. Trump is an intriguing figure to some voters,” he said. “He is currently getting four, five or six percent in polls, depending on the poll. That is obviously not enough to be a leader but it is enough to keep his name in the mix, so to speak.”
But Brown was quick to add that no contender generates more negative poll numbers than Trump, and Brown adds that will likely limit how much support he can gain once the debates begin.
The recent Quinnipiac poll found Republicans nationally had a dim view of Trump’s political prospects with a 34 percent favorable, 52 percent unfavorable rating.
Bush makes pitch
Trump’s announcement came one day after former Florida Governor Jeb Bush officially announced his candidacy with a vow to reform Washington and improve the U.S. image abroad.
“We will take command of our future once again in this country," he said. "We will lift our sights again, make opportunity common again and get events in the world moving our way again.”
Bush’s family name and his ability to raise millions in campaign contributions are advantages in the Republican field.
But the lingering unpopularity of his brother’s presidency and the Iraq war could have a negative impact, and analysts predicted that Jeb Bush’s challenge is present himself to voters as his own man.
“He might still get the nomination simply because the Republicans are used to being dictated to by the big donors and the establishment and for various reasons they rallied around Bush,” said Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.
“But I think it is fair to say already that he is not exactly enthusing the base, and that is another problem for him," Sabato said.
Twelve and counting
Possibly adding to the field, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is expected to announce his candidacy Tuesday and three other governors could join the race by July – Scott Walker of Wisconsin, John Kasich of Ohio and Chris Christie of New Jersey.
Some analysts see Kasich as a possible moderate alternative if Bush stumbles in the primaries, though they also wonder if he would be getting into the race too late.
Pollster Brown predicted a long and hard-fought campaign for the Republican nomination in part because there is no clear frontrunner at this early stage.
“The latest Quinnipiac poll of contenders for the Republican presidential nomination shows that the race for the Republican nomination is one big muddle," Brown said.
"With so many candidates involved it is very difficult for anyone to stand out. And with so many candidates it is unlikely to clarify itself very much very soon," he added.
Most polls indicate Bush, Walker and Florida Senator Marco Rubio are in the top tier of the Republican field at the moment, with several other challengers not far behind.
Walker has a bit of an early lead in the first contest state, Iowa, which will kick off the nominating process with its party caucuses early next year.
But there are no clear frontrunners in the next two states to vote, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and that means a good showing in Iowa will be important to those contenders looking for a springboard to compete in the later primaries and caucuses.