US Presidential campaign 2016: Ten candidates, but the Republicans are hardly spoilt for choice

Texas governor Rick Perry becomes latest runner in crowded field

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The Independent US

Another day, another candidate – or even two. Rick Perry, former three-term governor of Texas, has joined the already crowded field for the 2016 Presidential nomination, hoping that voters will forget the blunder that drove him out of the race four years ago.

Hours before Mr Perry’s formal announcement in Dallas however, came an arguably more important development, as Jeb Bush, Florida’s former governor and an early front runner for 2016, made clear what had long been obvious, that he too would formally enter the contest on 15 June.

Mr Perry, a rock-ribbed conservative, briefly led the Republican race in 2012, until his infamous ‘Oops’ moment in the middle of a candidates’ debate, when he forgot the name of one of three government departments in Washington he wanted to abolish. Now he is back, touting Texas’ economic performance under his stewardship and wearing spectacles to project the gravitas some felt was missing last time around.

“This is the end of an era of failed leadership,” he proclaimed. “Six years into the so-called recovery, weakness at home has led to weakness abroad. It’s time to restore hope, real hope, and return freedom to the individual.”

His decision means there are 10 confirmed Republican candidates, with probably at least five more to come: Mr Bush, and no less than four sitting governors – Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal, and John Kasich of Ohio.

 

The plethora of contenders has scrambled the polls which will play a critical role in these early proceedings. The most recent, by Fox News, showed Mr Bush, Mr Walker, and Florida’s senator Marco Rubio in a virtual deadheat at around 12 per cent, with four others close enough to be within the margin of error.

Normally such early polls would be virtually meaningless, with the real focus on polling in the key early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. But they will determine the 10 candidates to take part in the first debate of the 2016 season on 6 August, organised by Fox News. Mr Perry barely makes the cut right now, while both Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett Packard and the sole woman in the field, and Rick Santorum, runner-up to Mitt Romney for the 2012 Republican nomination, do not.

But anything could happen in the next few weeks, as the contenders seek to establish a niche. Meanwhile the Democratic field is expanding too, as a few tiny cracks appear in Hillary Clinton’s mask of impregnability. This week Lincoln Chafee, once a super-moderate Republican, then independent, senator and governor of Rhode Island joined Vermont senator Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, as a challenger to Ms Clinton. They could soon be joined by Jim Webb, the Republican-turned-Democrat who represented Virginia in the Senate from 2007 to 2013.

Ms Clinton still has a massive lead in the polls, with around 55 per cent of Democrats backing her, against 12 per cent for Mr Sanders, and just 1 or 2 per cent for Messrs O’Malley and Chafee. At this stage, probably only a colossal new scandal or a major health scare could deny her the nomination.

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