By Joseph Ax and Tim Reid
(Reuters) – Former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plan to enter the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination next week, amid long-running challenges to dominance of the favorite Donald Trump.
Christie, who advised Trump’s campaign in 2016 only to become a vocal critic of the former president, will officially announce his 2024 campaign on June 6, a person familiar with the matter said.
Pence, who angered Donald Trump by refusing to back his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, is expected to enter the race against his former boss on June 7, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum also plans to race the same day as Pence, according to a person familiar with Burgum’s plans.
The growing Republican field concerns many opponents of Trump within the Republican Party. They fear a large number of challengers will split the anti-Trump vote and hand the party’s nomination to the former president, who can count on at least 30% of the Republican base to support him.
Trump has a massive lead in the polls in a Republican field that now has nine declared or nearly declared candidates. His closest challenger is Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who entered the race last week.
On June 1, Pence’s polling average in the Republican field was below 4%, compared to 53% for Trump, according to a polling average from RealClearPolitics. Christie to date has barely registered in the polls.
Pence will kick off his campaign with a video and speech in the premier state of Iowa, the sources said.
A staunch social conservative who has supported Trump throughout his tenure in office, Pence has increasingly distanced himself from the Republican former president since his election defeat, saying Trump’s encouragement of rioters who attacked the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, put him and his family in danger.
Pence, who turns 64 on June 7, has continued to embrace many of Trump’s policies, while portraying himself as a balanced, consensus-driven alternative. He also appealed more directly to the evangelical Christian community.
His campaign’s success will depend on his ability to attract enough supporters of Trump’s policies who are discouraged by the former president’s rhetoric and behavior to build a viable coalition.
Christie, 60, enters the race as a decided underdog, six years after his 2016 presidential campaign failed to gain traction amid a crowded field that included Trump. Only 1% of Republicans said he would be their preferred candidate for 2024 in a Reuters/Ipsos poll taken May 9-15.
Christie will officially launch her campaign on Tuesday at a town hall in Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire’s premier state, the person familiar with the matter said.
Other Republicans who have entered the race include U.S. Senator Tim Scott and former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.
(Reporting by Steve Holland, Joseph Ax and Tim Reid; Editing by Daniel Wallis)