GOP's Presidential Field Has Something For Everyone And It's Growing

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The GOP field of candidates for president is big — and its getting bigger. This week two more Republicans joined the race — bringing the number of official Republican hopefuls to 8.

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Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The field of Republicans running for president has gotten so big, there's a debate over debates and whether the stage should be limited to the more prominent names. This week, two more Republicans joined the race, bringing the number of official GOP candidates to eight, though that number could double before long as NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: This year's Republican field has something for everyone - senators, governors, tea party stalwarts, establishment favorites, younger generation insurgents. And despite the unusually large crop of candidates, polls show Republicans are very happy with their choices.

SCOTT REED: Republicans recognize this is a big election, a really big election.

LIASSON: Scott Reed is a Republican strategist.

REED: The stakes of this election are high, maybe the highest they've been in our lifetime. And I think the fact that you see such a breadth and depth of Republicans from governors across the board to Senators and non-politicians willing to enter the arena is a sign of strength for the Republican Party.

LIASSON: There are three freshmen senators in the race. Marco Rubio is presenting himself as the new generation alternative to, say, Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARCO RUBIO: I've heard some suggest that I should step aside and wait my turn.

CROWD: No.

LIASSON: Rand Paul, another freshman senator who calls himself libertarianish, is running against the establishment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RAND PAUL: The Washington machine that gobbles up our freedoms and invades every nook and cranny of our lives must be stopped.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

LIASSON: Ted Cruz, also a freshman and a Tea Party favorite, says Republicans need to return to their conservative roots.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TED CRUZ: Imagine millions of courageous conservatives all across America rising up together to say in unison, we demand our liberty.

LIASSON: Among the older candidates, there's former Arkansas governor, Mike Huckabee. He's making his second run for president with a populist campaign that emphasizes his small-town blue-collar background.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MIKE HUCKABEE: Power and money and political influence have left a lot of Americans lagging behind. They work hard, they lift heavy things, and they sweat through their clothes grinding out a living, but they can't seem to get ahead or, in some cases, even stay even.

LIASSON: On Wednesday, former Pennsylvania senator, Rick Santorum, said he would run again. Santorum came in second to Mitt Romney in 2012.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RICK SANTORUM: Working families don't need another president tide to big government or big money. And today is the day. Today is the day we are going to begin to fight back.

(CHEERS, APPLAUSE)

LIASSON: And just yesterday, George Pataki got in. Who? You know, George Pataki, the governor of New York from 1995 to 2006.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GEORGE PATAKI: We, the people, not Washington, are equipped to lead this nation. We, the people, can make a difference.

LIASSON: Two of the announced candidates have never held office before. Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is the only woman in the race.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CARLY FIORINA: Our founders never intended us to have a professional political class.

LIASSON: And the soft-spoken, ultraconservative Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon and the only African-American running.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BEN CARSON: I think it's time for the people to rise up and take the government back.

(APPLAUSE)

LIASSON: Right now, there's no front-runner, but there is what you might call a top-tier. Just three of the current or potential candidates are polling in the double digits - Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Marco Rubio. There are lots of crosscutting divisions in the Republican nomination fight - generational, ideological, establishment versus tea party. But there is one thing that most Republicans have in common - they are very confident that their candidate can win in this environment. Republican strategist Rick Wilson.

RICK WILSON: These are folks who all have recognized that in the post-Obama era, there's an opportunity and a market for somebody who can provide a bold reset to the various foreign and domestic failures of the Obama administration. And they're looking at a Hillary Clinton as the inevitable Democratic nominee with a lot of flaws inherent in her candidacy.

LIASSON: After eight years, Republicans are betting that American voters will want a change because they usually do. Since World War II, only one person - George H. W. Bush - has succeeded a two-term president of his own party. Republicans agree with Barack Obama who once said that in 2016, voters are going to want, quote, "that new car smell." Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.