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3 more GOP presidential candidates are expected to enter the race this week

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Here are some of the Republicans running for president in 2024 - Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and Ron DeSantis are all running along with Asa Hutchinson and a handful of others.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

This week, we get three more - former Vice President Mike Pence, New Jersey's former governor Chris Christie, and North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.

INSKEEP: So let's talk through that expanding field with conservative commentator Al Cardenas, who is following all this. Good morning.

AL CARDENAS: Hey, good morning. Good to be with you.

INSKEEP: How does this expanding field compare to past Republican primaries?

CARDENAS: Well, it's pretty much following a pattern we've had in the last two decades. In 2008, we had a field in similar size as we did in 2012 and 2016. And last time we didn't because with an incumbent on board, that usually doesn't happen.

INSKEEP: Sure.

CARDENAS: But - and so we're following a pattern we've been following for a while. Candidates drop out, typically, you know, as money maybe doesn't come in or the number of supporters doesn't add up or they drop out for other reasons. But most people should be on the stage in August when we have our first primary, if they qualify.

INSKEEP: I've heard there's so many candidates, there's a possibility of having to split up the debate or knock people off the stage. You're telling me, Mr. Cardenas, the pattern is a very big Republican field, bigger even than on the Democratic side if we went back through some of those same elections. But my question is not just about the personalities, but the substance. When you look at this widening field of candidates, do they represent different directions for the Republican Party?

CARDENAS: Well, it's interesting because sometimes you have on board candidates that are kind of one-issue candidates. And in this case, there's a lot of connection involving culture issues. You know, and you have some - I think there are three lanes here. One of one of the lanes are people who say, hey, the election in 2020 was fair. This whole idea about election fraud is nonsense. There are those who rely on the election fraud issue. And then there are those who don't want to talk about it. And that's one category.

The other category involves social issues, and you get people out of that lane. The third category are what I call the still Ronald Reagan candidates. And Mike Pompeo, Asa Hutchinson and folks like that are in that third lane. And then we'll see. The first lane is pretty crowded. You know, you have Donald Trump, and you have Ron DeSantis. There's a second lane where it's kind of a mix with Nikki Haley and folks like that. And then eventually we have the entries that we're looking at this week. You'll have folks who I called disrupters, like Chris Christie and others who are up there to kind of, you know, shake and bake in debate and see how that ends up.

INSKEEP: I'll just note, when you said the still Reagan candidates, that's candidate Asa Hutchinson, who I think polled around 0% in a recent poll. I mean, distinguished former governor...

CARDENAS: Right.

INSKEEP: ...But just not a lot of support yet. And Mike Pompeo is already out. It doesn't sound like the Reagan lane, the old Republican Party, is in a very strong place.

CARDENAS: Yep. Yep. I think we've crossed that bridge. The Republican Party doesn't look similar. There are those who are still trying to hold on to the Ronald Reagan, you know, mantra. And those are folks who are primarily anti-Trump. And they use that Ronald Reagan moniker as a way to distinguish themselves.

INSKEEP: If you had to pick a candidate that you thought could tear up Donald Trump, that could give him a serious run for his money, who would you pick?

CARDENAS: Boy, at this time, it's Ron DeSantis. I thought that for sure six months ago. They were running neck and neck, and then Ron DeSantis kind of fumbled the start, and he's dropped down quite a bit. The question is, can anybody get ahead of him? My sense is, as you look at this race, you have to look at us saying, is anyone catching up with Ron DeSantis? Is anybody about to overtake him? So it's a brand new race. Right now, it's a Trump-DeSantis race. And if someone can catch up to or even surpass DeSantis, it turns into a new race. And I have no clue who that might be.

INSKEEP: We've only got about 10 seconds. But will the sheer number of candidates cancel each other out and leave Donald Trump the inevitable nominee?

CARDENAS: Yeah, very possible. Donald Trump seems to have a very solid base, and that's probably not going to move.

INSKEEP: Al Cardenas, thanks so much. Really appreciate talking with you.

CARDENAS: My pleasure, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.