Four candidates — Mike Pence, Chris Christie, Tim Scott and Doug Burgum — recently entered the Republican presidential battle. Will any of these underdogs catch fire? Let’s look at their political strengths and weaknesses.
Chris Christie, 60, is a clever, entertaining, tough-talking former two-term governor of New Jersey and federal prosecutor. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware and a law degree from Seton Hall.
Strengths: Christie fought terrorism and political corruption as U.S. attorney. He defeated an incumbent Democratic governor, proving he could expand the Republican base in a blue state. He was re-elected by 22 points. A strong executive known for “telling it like it is,” he’s credited with cutting taxes, reducing spending and reforming the pension system. He chaired the Republican Governors Association. Christie’s leadership during Hurricane Sandy won wide praise, gaining him a 77% job approval rating. Few politicians, if any, are better debaters.
Weaknesses: Christie sought the 2016 presidential nomination and ran sixth in the New Hampshire primary. He dropped out and endorsed Donald Trump; since then, their relationship has gone downhill. The temporary closing of the George Washington Bridge during his governorship, an act of apparent political retribution facilitated by Christie’s staff, was a big embarrassment. Christie, who starts with high negative ratings among Republican voters, is now viewed by pundits as an anti-Trump hatchet man; that may win attention but won’t likely win primaries.
Mike Pence, 64, is a tightly controlled and serious-minded former congressman, governor of Indiana and vice president. He carries traditional family values as a banner. A graduate of Hanover College, he received a law degree from Indiana University. He’s also been a radio and television talk show host.
Strengths: A longtime champion of Christian conservative causes, Pence has deep credibility with evangelicals. He was twice Donald Trump’s running mate and was broadly viewed as a solid and competent vice president, often seen as the “adult in the room.” Pence is linked to many of the administration’s accomplishments. His refusal to overturn the electoral vote count on Jan. 6, 2021 was a notable act of courage.
Weaknesses: Pence’s obsequious loyalty to Trump throughout most of their administration continues to displease Never Trumpers, while his break with Trump has angered Trump’s base. He gets the worst of both worlds.
Tim Scott, 57, is a senator from South Carolina. He graduated from Charleston Southern University and started his career as an insurance agent and financial adviser before winning elections to the Charleston County Council, the state legislature and U.S. House. Strangely enough, one of his GOP presidential opponents, then-Gov. Nikki Haley, appointed Scott to the U.S. Senate; he thereafter won three elections by wide margins. He’s the first African American elected to both chambers of Congress.
Strengths: Scott is a thoughtful, inspiring speaker with a magnetic personality. An evangelical Christian, he grew up in working-class poverty. He’s fought to pass police reform, welfare reform, a balanced budget amendment, repeal of Obamacare and an anti-lynching law. The only African American candidate for president this year, Scott is one of the few Black conservatives who have been elected to federal office.
Weaknesses: Scott has a divided home base. Trump’s strength in South Carolina, together with Haley’s service as its former governor, makes it harder for Scott to score a big win in this critical primary state. Unlike Trump, Pence and Haley and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, Scott has never held national elected or appointed office.
Doug Burgum, 66, is the second-term governor of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota University and received an MBA from Stanford. Beginning as a McKinsey consultant, he kickstarted a software company in Fargo that he eventually sold to Microsoft for $1.1 billion.
Strengths: One of the few presidential candidates with a good sense of humor, Burgum is also a serious player. An accomplished businessman, he began his campaign for governor as an underdog. He beat the state party candidate in the primary and won the general election by a landslide. He was easily re-elected. His views on hot topics — abortion, transgender issues, critical race theory and taxes — are in line with current conservative orthodoxy.
Weakness: Doug who?
Ron Faucheux is a nonpartisan political analyst, polling expert and writer based in Louisiana. He publishes LunchtimePolitics.com, a national newsletter on polls and public opinion.