In case you haven't been paying attention to the 2016 Republican presidential race — and you should be given that it's a mere 655 days from today! — there's been an interesting development this week: Everyone is running.
* Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is convening a strategy session with his finance team today in the Sunshine State. And he is bringing on Anna Rogers, who is currently the finance director for the conservative supergroup American Crossroads, to head up fundraising for his PAC.
* Sarah Palin said she was "interested" in the race while "serving wild boar chili to the homeless" at the Salvation Army in Las Vegas."
* Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush powwowed in Salt Lake City on Thursday to discuss "the future" according to Bush.
* Sen. Lindsey O. Graham of South Carolina is setting up a "testing the waters" committee.
* Seven potential candidates — including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie — will be in Iowa on Saturday for a forum hosted by conservative Rep. Steve King.
* This from conservative radio talk-show host Hugh Hewitt:
According to Politics1.com, which keeps track of these sorts of things, there are 25(!) potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination. Here's a handy guide to figuring out whether your favorite candidate is running:
This should catch you up on 2016 GOP field: Is [candidate] running? ↓ Yes
— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) January 23, 2015
As I've written in this space before, it's a near-certainty that the 2016 field will be the biggest in modern history of Republican nominating fights. (In both 2008 and 2012, 12 candidates ran.) The reason is simple: The field — even with Bush and maybe even Romney in it — is more wide open than any race for the GOP nomination in more than two decades. There's no heavy favorite; heck, there's barely a front-runner. Check out this chart from WaPo pollster Scott Clement that compares early polling in this race with data from past GOP nominations:
The rush of candidates will also have consequences — particularly if even two-thirds of the candidates talking about running actually, well, run.
The biggest impact will be on fundraising. A race with Jeb, Romney, Christie, Walker and Rubio would put enormous pressure on the party's major donor class to choose sides among candidates they know and like. And, although the party establishment and its major donors have lots and lots of money — it's by far the biggest money pot on the GOP side — it's hard to see all five of those candidates being able to raise the $75 million or more each probably needs to run a serious campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and beyond.
The second major effect of such a large field of serious candidates is that the Republican National Committee's hopes of quickly choosing a nominee and focusing the party's time (and money) on the likely Democratic nominee Hillary Rodham Clinton might be dashed. It takes a while to winnow down a field that has, say, 16-20 candidates in it. That's especially true if a bunch of states move their primaries forward in the calendar in hopes of getting some attention (and an economic boost) for themselves. That primary calendar remains very much in flux with lots of pending legislation but here's a good look at what the map looks like right now from Frontloading HQ:
The more states vote early-ish in the calendar, the more likely it is that candidates target a state or two where they have the best chance of winning rather than trying to run the table. And, assuming that several different candidates win some of those early states, it will be hard for the party to pressure out someone who can say: "Hey, I've won a state. I have delegates." That could mean a nominating process that drags out well into the spring — and might, under certain scenarios, create at least the specter of a brokered GOP convention.
Now, looking at the race isn't the same thing as running in the race. There's a I-won't-blink-until-you-blink aspect to all of this posturing. But the last week suggests that the GOP field, which is already big, is going to get even bigger. And maybe a lot bigger.