Governors’ Row: GOP Presidential Field Set to Expand as Past and Present Governors Consider Bids

An array of current and former GOP governors are making moves on the sidelines of the 2024 Republican presidential primary, with three current or former state executives set to enter the race next week while others consider bids or are being wooed by the donor class.


An array of current and former GOP governors are making moves on the sidelines of the 2024 Republican presidential primary, with three current or former state executives set to enter the race next week while others consider bids or are being wooed by the donor class.

  • Chris Christie, the former Governor of New Jersey, is expected to kick off a bid for the GOP nomination on Tuesday, June 6 in New Hampshire. Christie, an early endorser of former President Donald Trump after his presidential bid flamed out in 2016, now plans to mount an aggressive bid against the man he once supported.
  • Christie’s campaign team told Axios they plan on running a “joyful,” “non-traditional campaign” aimed at the “exhausted majority.” He plans to portray himself as “a happy warrior who speaks his mind, takes risks and is happy to punch Donald Trump in the nose.”
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence, who served as Governor of Indiana from 2013-2017, plans to launch his presidential campaign in Iowa on June 7, his 64th birthday. Pence plans to campaign heavily in all 99 Iowa counties and views the Hawkeye State’s strong evangelical Christian base as a natural target for his message.
  • The former VP has staked out traditional Reaganite positions on issues ranging from Ukraine to entitlement reform in a contrast to the more populist stances adopted by his former running mate Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • Pence famously broke with Trump on Jan. 6, 2021 after Trump tried to pressure Pence into “decertifying” the 2020 election, a power Pence did not have, even while the Capitol was under attack from pro-Trump rioters.
  • Pence is expected to have company on June 7, as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has his own “major announcement” planned for Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota. Burgum is not well-known nationally, but if he runs would be one of the wealthiest candidates in the field after only Trump and Vivek Ramaswamy. 
  • Burgum built Great Plains Software in North Dakota from a small startup and sold it to Microsoft for $1.1 billion in 2001. After a successful business career, Burgum entered politics and was first elected governor in 2016. He plans to invest his own funds in his presidential campaign and has reportedly already filmed television ads for his nascent campaign.
  • Some Republicans in the business community, meanwhile, are trying to lure two other GOP governors off the sidelines. The Financial Times reported some business leaders are clamoring for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who defeated a Trump-backed primary challenge and a well-funded Democrat in 2022, to mount a bid.
  • Others are encouraging Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin “to keep his future options open,” as a “source close to the Virginia governor’s political operation” told FT.
  • Pence, Christie, Burgum, and any other GOP governor that jumps in will have to face Trump, DeSantis, Ramaswamy, and the other declared GOP candidates including ex-UN ambassador Nikki Haley, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • The New York Times predicted a “central challenge” of a Christie 2024 bid would be to explain to voters his “transformation” regarding Trump. Christie endorsed Trump during a critical stretch of the 2016 primaries, and then split with Trump just after Election Day 2020 and has never looked back.
  • “We view this race as absolutely wide open, and Iowa is really going to solidify itself as the pivotal player,” a “person familiar with Pence’s plans” told NBC News. “It’s a place that values Mike Pence’s principles — traditional conservative principles — deep-rooted faith and uncommon character.”
  • The former vice president has made fiscal responsibility, entitlement reforms, opposition to abortion, support for Ukraine, and attacking “radical gender ideology” his key issues as he’s tested a presidential bid. Even so, “Pence faces a tough path to the GOP nomination, but his politics aligns with evangelical Christians, a vital voting bloc for Republicans,” as CNN noted.



  • Fox News reported yet another GOP governor, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, is kicking the tires on a presidential bid and plans to announce his plans in the next fortnight. “The money has been lined up, the support’s been lined up. There’s a pathway to win. All that – those boxes are checked. The family’s on board, which is always a big one. I just got to make sure it’s right for the party and right for me,” Sununu told CNN. Sununu’s favorite-son status in the first primary state could throw a wrench into the plans of Granite State-focused candidates like Christie.
  • “After Trump, Christie has by far the most combative executive personality in the race. That’s an asset. He’s a blue-state governor who does not have any of the electoral downsides that prevent more-Evangelical style candidates from doing well in the Midwest. That’s also an asset,” wrote Michael Brendan Dougherty for National Review. “The question is whether he finds his groove in going after Donald Trump or going after Ron DeSantis.”
  • Breitbart argued “the fact that people like Scott, Pence, and Christie are entering the race in the lead-up to and immediate aftermath of DeSantis’s entrance into the field suggests a lack of confidence that the Florida governor could beat Trump–and the first polling out since DeSantis’s announcement shows that he got no bump from it.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023