2016 GOP field gets new blood
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The Republican presidential field will get an infusion of new blood this week as three new candidates enter the race for the GOP nomination.

On Monday morning, Dr. Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina have near-simultaneous announcements planned -- the black neurosurgeon will launch from his hometown of Detroit, while Fiorina plans a lower-key start with a press call and an online townhall later that afternoon. 


The next day, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is expected to launch his second bid for president from his storied hometown of Hope, Ark. 

Republican observers are especially enthused by the entrance of Carson, the only African-American in the field, and Fiorina, who’s likely to be the only female GOP candidate, to bring added diversity to a field that already includes two Cuban Americans in Sens. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioCrist launches bid for Florida governor, seeking to recapture his old job The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - Trump, Cheney trade jabs Rubio keeping door open on White House bid MORE (Fla.) and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzDNC gathers opposition research on over 20 potential GOP presidential candidates Major corporations, business groups come out against Texas voting law Cornyn is most prolific tweeter in Congress so far in 2021 MORE (Texas).

“The diversity is great,” said GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak. “It shows we’re a much broader party than the caricature some try to put on us.”

But Carson and Fiorina have almost no political experience between them, leading many Republicans to view Huckabee as the most formidable of the new trio. 

The former Baptist minister finished second in 2008 and is beloved by social conservatives, who make up about 30 to 40 percent of the primary electorate in Iowa, the first-in-the-nation caucus state he won nearly eight years ago.

Since then, Huckabee has worked to raise his profile in conservative circles through his popular television and radio shows. But now, he faces a vastly different political landscape.

He’s never been a prolific fundraiser, and 2016 will shatter every campaign spending record on the books. Huckabee is also viewed skeptically by some fiscal conservative groups, who have criticized his record as governor and labeled him “Tax Hike Mike.”

In addition, Huckabee won’t have a monopoly on the social conservative or evangelical Christian voters that propelled his upstart campaign in 2008.

He’ll be fighting for votes with Carson, who has a strong base of grassroots support Cruz, whose early entrance into the field propelled him into the top tier of candidates, and possibly former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Likely aware of this, the Huckabee campaign has sought to highlight the former Arkansas governor’s high favorability rating as evidence he has appeal outside of social conservative and evangelical voters.

“His performance in recent public polls…show, definitively, that Gov. Huckabee is extremely well-liked and significantly supported by all Republicans, not just evangelicals," Huckabee pollster Bob Wickers said in a memo last week.  "You cannot have favorables in the high 60's…without having support from Republicans across the board: blue collar, seniors, and conservatives - not just evangelicals."

Indeed, one of Huckabee’s strengths is his appeal to the blue collar and working class voters that have become a key constituency for Republicans in recent elections.

“In terms of style and rhetoric, he’s at his best talking to white working class voters who feel left behind by Washington and shut out of the economy,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

Huckabee is currently in sixth place, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, taking 8.3 percent support. He had consistently been polling in the top three, but Rubio, Cruz and Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulOvernight Health Care: WHO-backed Covax gets a boost from Moderna Vaccine hesitancy among lawmakers slows return to normalcy on Capitol Hill Senators push to allow for remote voting during national crisis MORE (R-Ky.) have overtaken him since entering the field.

Once near the top of the polls, Carson has also seen his support drop in recent weeks after other candidates’ announcements. Plus, he’s increasingly waded into contentious political battles that can quickly knock the shine off of a largely unknown candidate.

Republicans, however, say Carson might be the most intriguing prospect in the field.

He has cultivated a durable base of support and attracted tens of thousands of small-dollar grassroots donors through a conservative media empire that includes at least eight books and one movie starring Cuba Gooding Jr.

Carson’s story of rising out of poverty in Detroit to become one of the most celebrated neurosurgeons in the world has endeared him to countless supporters.

Still, Carson’s political weaknesses are glaring. 

GOP strategists say Carson has limited appeal outside of conservative grassroots and evangelical Christian circles. And the political neophyte will have to prove that he’s prepared to go toe-to-toe with the experienced field of lawmakers and governors on policy issues, that he can successfully fundraise, and that he can put together a team that can deal with the rigors and spotlight of a presidential campaign.

“He’s exciting and has appeal to voters on red meat issues,” said Katie Packer Gage, a GOP strategist and alum of Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign. “But I don’t see him having the resume that shows the kind of breadth and understanding of foreign policy that voters will be looking for. His campaign could falter just because he hasn’t built the strong foundation you need to run for president.”

Despite getting good early reviews, Fiorina still faces the longest odds of the bunch. 

The former Hewlett-Packard CEO barely registers in national polls, taking just 1 percent support, according to the RealClearPolitics average.

She’s played the role of attack dog against Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonPelosi's archbishop calls for Communion to be withheld from public figures supporting abortion rights Hillary Clinton: Biden less 'constrained' than Clinton and Obama due to prior administration Biden's unavoidable foreign policy crisis MORE in the early stages of the campaign, and GOP operatives say she’s a boon to the party in this capacity.

“The other candidates will be watching and learning from her tone and rhetoric as she goes after Hillary,” said O’Connell. “The media won’t be able to immediately pull the woman card on her.”

Republicans say if she acquits herself well in the primary, she could be a dark horse vice presidential candidate, or a secretary of Treasury or Commerce in a potential Republican administration.

All three of the new entrants will be looking for a polling and fundraising bounce off their announcements. However, the reaction could be muted by the cluster of announcements instead of the paced rollouts throughout the last month.  

“That’s significant,” said Mackowiak. “Cruz, Paul and Rubio all got a polling bounce and were able to raise millions off their announcements. Will these three be able to do that?”