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Crowded Republican field could benefit the front-runner, UB expert says

Release Date: June 12, 2015

“Whoever establishes some early advantage – probably Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker – is likely to benefit from the field staying crowded longer.”
James Campbell, professor of political science
University at Buffalo
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Whoever establishes an early advantage could benefit from a crowded Republican field, says UB's James Campbell. Photo: Douglas Levere

BUFFALO, N.Y. – There will be close to 20 Republican candidates in the presidential primary race, and that could actually help the front-runner, according to James Campbell, University at Buffalo Distinguished Professor of political science.

“With a big field, I think what could be decisive is how quickly the field thins out,” he said. “Whoever establishes some early advantage – probably Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio or Scott Walker – is likely to benefit from the field staying crowded longer.”

Campbell, a nationally known political forecaster, said a big field makes the campaign less volatile. It prevents strong opposition to the front-runner from forming around one single candidate – instead, support will spread thin around several other candidates.

But the large field has created a challenge for the Republican debates.

Both Fox News and CNN have announced that they will limit the first two major debates to candidates who rank in the top 10 in national polls.

“I hate to see deserving and accomplished candidates locked out of the debates at the campaign’s beginning by some arbitrary inclusion rules,” Campbell said. “There might not be a statistically significant poll difference between being 10th and being 11th. Being shut out of a debate is pretty devastating for a candidate."

To find UB faculty experts on other topics — including issues trending in the news — visit UB’s Faculty Experts website.

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