Four more Republican presidential candidates are preparing to make their formal announcements in the next week:
The field won’t likely reach capacity until July. Potential candidates standing at the edge of the pool will have to decide whether to actually jump in by the end of that month, as the first Republican debate takes place Aug. 6.
The four candidates announcing their campaigns over the next two weeks are at risk of not qualifying for the first GOP debate, sponsored by Fox News.
None of these four candidates has a realistic chance at becoming the nominee. None of them really has much of a chance of seriously competing in most states. Of the four, Pataki is the most quixotic and bizarre of the bunch, since he has been out of office for a decade and a half, he has no constituency in the party, his record is not particularly noteworthy, and he would face enormous resistance from conservatives on a range of issues if he gained the slightest amount of traction. He would be the Republicans’ answer to Lincoln Chafee, except that Chafee is a more credible candidate for the Democratic nomination than Pataki is for the Republican one. Graham similarly has no chance, but that isn’t why he’s running. He wants to use a presidential campaign to promote his bankrupt foreign policy views. As I’ve mentioned before, these are already well-represented by other declared candidates, which makes the reason for Graham’s campaign even harder to understand. Graham could end up being a spoiler in South Carolina, where he will probably receive some “favorite son” backing, but other than that his impact on the race should be minimal.
Santorum and Perry would seem to be the more serious of the four, but they are just as unlikely to be competitive as the others. Perry flopped so spectacularly in 2011 that there is almost certainly no way for him to regain the support he briefly had four years ago, and there were always good reasons to expect that Perry was overrated even before his disastrous debate performances. Considering his past record, Perry might be the only to benefit from being cut out of the primary debates. A 2016 Santorum has never made sense, and it is a mark of how stubbornly persistent Santorum is that he is pressing ahead with a campaign that even he must know will amount to very little. Technically, Santorum is the 2012 “runner-up” and under very different circumstances he might be considered a real contender for the nomination, but his 2012 success was by and large a fluke and a product of Romney’s unpopularity. Take Romney away, and there is virtually no support for Santorum left.
The effect of these minor candidacies will be to bleed off support from the others at the margins, and that will probably come mostly at Bush and Rubio’s expense. Other than that, they aren’t going to amount to very much.