6 Aug 2015

Meet the top 10 Republican presidential wannabes

In an unusually sprawling field, 16 men and one woman enter the race to become Republican candidate in the 2016 US presidential election. Meet the top 10.

Top ten would-be Republican presidential candidates

On Thursday Fox News will stage the first television debates for the candidates seeking nomination as the Republican contender for the presidency in 2016.

But the field is so wide that they could not feasibly all appear at once, so Fox will co-host two debates with Facebook.

Ten front-runners have secured a coveted place in the prime-time debate: Donald Trump, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Chris Christie and John Kasich.

Using national polling data, Fox decided that the other seven – Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore – would have to be content with appearing in a debate earlier in the day.

Fiorina is the only woman in the Republican line-up, while Jindal is the serving governor of Louisiana, and Graham is senator for South Carolina. Debate coach Todd Graham described their exclusion as a “crushing blow”, telling CNN: “You’d have to be under a rock not to notice if a candidate you might support wasn’t even pictured with the ‘big boys’.”

Here is our guide to the Republican top 10:

Donald Trump (Getty)

Donald Trump

Way ahead of his rivals, businessman Donald Trump scored over 23 per cent in the latest averaged polls of the Republican field, meaning he will literally be centre stage during this debate. The property developer and reality TV star, who hosted the US version of The Apprentice, is the wild card in the pack who has promised to “make America great again”.

Despite massive public recognition, he is reckoned unlikely to be favoured by the wealthy Republican establishment. However he has plenty of money of his own. His maverick campaign has seen “The Donald” attack former Republican contender John McCain over his war record and insult Mexican immigrants.

Jeb Bush (Getty)

Jeb Bush

Son and brother of previous presidents, Jeb Bush is the Republican candidate who has attracted most in direct financial donations – $11.4m by the end of June 2015. He is second in poll rankings, on 12.8 per cent, behind Mr Trump.

Married to a Mexican immigrant, the former Florida governor (1999-2007) has doggedly stuck to a policy of allowing undocumented migrants a pathway to legal status, which could put off elements of the Republican base, but he believes that to retreat on that issue would ensure a third defeat for his party in 2016.

Unlike most other Republican hopefuls, Mr Bush is not a climate change denier.

Scott Walker (Getty)

Scott Walker

Currently governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker is running on his record of tax cuts, pension overhauls and union busting in the state.

He has no strong single supporter base but hopes to appeal across the board with his tough talk on national security and support for Israel, while his determination to transfer as much power as possible to state and local government should appeal to Tea Party activists.

Mike Huckabee (Getty)

Mike Huckabee

A former southern Baptist pastor and a previous governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses in 2008. But this time round he will have significant competition for the Christian conservative vote.

To address that he has shifted his message to appeal to older, working-class conservatives, vowing to protect social security and medicare. Not forgetting his fellow evangelicals, he has warned of a movement on the left to “criminalise Christianity”.

Ben Carson (Getty)

Ben Carson

A former neurosurgeon, Ben Carson’s grassroots support sprang from his scathing attacks on President Obama’s healthcare law. But will that convert into votes? He has yet to set out detailed policies, although he is naturally fluent on health issues.

He criticised the federal government for encouraging dependency, but has been prone to verbal gaffes which could turn off voters looking to back a serious contender for the White House.

Ted Cruz (Getty)

Ted Cruz

The senator for Texas was the first person to officially declare his candidacy for the 2016 presidential race.

An uncompromising conserrvative, Mr Cruz is no stranger to making attention-grabbing speeches and media appearances. His 2012 victory in the race to become the Republican choice in Texas was described as “a true grassroots victory against very long odds.”

Marco Rubio (Getty)

Marco Rubio

A fluent Spanish-speaking son of Cuban immigrants, Marco Rubio is currently a senator in Florida.

The 44-year-old paints himself as the youthful face of a party struggling to come to terms with an increasingly diverse nation. A charismatic speaker, his supporters value his optimistic message, which they believe will have wide appeal to a new generation of voters.

Rand Paul (Getty)

Rand Paul

Also a senator, Rand Paul represents the southern state of Kentucky. His small-government economic conservatism attracts Tea Party supporters, and he has made a point of seeking support from college students and black voters. He also hopes to gain the votes of the libertarians who backed his father Ron Paul in 2008 and 2012.

Fond of emphasising that he is beholden to no party, Rand Paul is almost as likely to criticise Republicans as President Obama.

He is strongly against government intrusion in private communications – a position that distinguishes him from his rivals.

Chris Christie (Getty)

Chris Christie

The governor of New Jersey, tough-talking Chris Christie has a way with a soundbite. A larger than life politician, he was once forced to fire an aide accused of causing traffic chaos on the George Washington bridge into New York in order to settle a political score.

That he has won twice in a heavily Democratic state may yet boost his chance of arguing that he can capture the presidency for the Republicans.

John Kasich (Getty)

John Kasich

Despite his late entry to the Republican race, Ohio Governor John Kasich sneaked into the top 10, which is lucky as Thursday’s debate is being held on home turf in Cleveland, Ohio. He briefly joined the race to be president 16 years ago, but was forced to back out due to the superior fundraising and name recognition of his rival George W Bush.

The fact that he extended Medicaid cover to 300,000 people in Ohio under President Obama’s healthcare law could deter the very Republican votes he needs to become the party’s candidate.