For the 2016 presidential race, more than 18 months away, the GOP presidential field is shaping up to be the largest in recent history.
As it stands now, 20 Republicans have serious intentions for a White House run in 2016, with some aggressive rumblings already, and others expecting to gear up in the next few weeks.
Jonathan Easley of The Hill expects a flurry of announcements to begin in April.
With a year and a half until the first debate, scheduled August 2015, the field should narrow considerably.
Nevertheless, Easley lists the 20 Republicans (in descending order) who are – in one form or another — dipping their toes into the GOP nomination pool.
At the top is Jeb Bush, who seems to be actively campaigning without officially announcing his candidacy. With recent trips to early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, the former Florida governor has become the establishment front-runner, assembling a powerhouse political team and lining up major donors.
Next comes Scott Walker; the Wisconsin governor has been forceful in the early stages, jockeying for an early lead that could prove he is in it for the long haul.
Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is close to announcing his presidential campaign, which Easley expects to come on April 7. Paul, a libertarian favorite, is leaning heavily on technology, with a message crafted towards the key demographics of young voters and minorities.
Creating a buzz in many conservative circles, and with the likely support of a South Florida billionaire, Senator Marco Rubio is stitching together an effective political team, many of them from Mitt Romney’s 2012 effort.
Second tier candidates include Chris Christie, the New Jersey governor who has bounced back from some notable missteps earlier in the year with a series of the town-hall meetings highlighting his considerable political skills.
Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is a grassroots conservative favorite who has polled within reach of front-runners. However, a spate of recent verbal gaffes have held him back.
Leaving a high profile Fox News commentator gig, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is hinting at another presidential bid, hoping to appeal to the same evangelical base that backed him in 2008.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz has also toured early primary states, as well as making the rounds of mainstream media, all while relishing the role of conservative firebrand.
After a notable flop in 2012, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry seems to have regained his footing, shoring up his donor base with a more targeted message in foreign policy.
Lindsey Graham had some impressive showings in a few early-voting states by exhibiting a comfortable confidence in foreign policy issues. Regardless, the South Carolina senator still languishes somewhere in the middle of the pack.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, from the quintessential battleground state, has demonstrated some conservative heft. Easley notes that a recent George Will editorial called for Kasich to enter the race, as a way to add some “spirit” and “spice.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is using a series of speeches across the country to keep his name relevant, leaning on his reputation as a social conservative and policy wonk.
Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a 2012 runner-up, appears to have missed his big chance, even though he still drew a small group of reporters at the Iowa Ag Summit earlier this month.
As the only female candidate, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina adds diversity to the race, making aggressive moves early on. Her strength as a wealthy executive is in self-funding if need be.
Down the scale is former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, a notable foreign policy hawk. Interestingly enough, he is the only GOP candidate who supports same-sex marriage, possibly making him an attractive choice to a few wealthy GOP donors.
New York congressional representative Peter King stated his primary interest in the race is to provide a counter balance to agitators Paul and Cruz.
Former New York Gov. George Pataki is also touring early voting states. Like fellow Northeasterner Christie, Pataki is boasting his Republican bona fides as governor of a traditionally blue state.
Among the lower-tier names are former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, who is seriously considering a presidential run, but would find it difficult in such a crowded field. Former Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich has visited New Hampshire several times so far this year, quietly meeting with donors to examine his chances for a potential bid.
Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, who this month became the first official Republican presidential candidate, brings up the rear with a serious lack of name recognition. To date, few even know who he is.