The 2024 Republican primary field is expected to grow next week, with former Vice President Mike Pence and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reportedly entering the race.

Christie is expected to announce his campaign next Tuesday at a town hall at the Saint Anselm College New Hampshire Institute of Politics, and Pence is expected to do so the following day at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, according to The Associated Press.

That the two prospective candidates plan to kick off their campaigns in early primary states shows how important their campaigns view their performance in these states to propel their candidacies further into the primaries.

National polling averages show Pence would enter the race a distant third behind former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Christie enters at the back of the pack, along with other candidates who so far have failed to gain traction in early national polls.

Others could still join them in the race. Possible candidates who’ve indicated they could still announce are New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum.

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Republicans hoping for a nominee next year other than Trump might be worried about the possibility of a large primary field next year, considering how the 2016 primaries played out. That year, Trump received less than half of the total primary votes cast, but Republican voters couldn’t coalesce around a single challenger to Trump and were split largely among Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Ben Carson.

In leaked audio from a DeSantis campaign meeting with donors, a member of DeSantis’ team said he saw the primaries as a two-man race between Trump and DeSantis because other candidates would split up a small percentage of so-called “Never Trump” Republican voters who don’t support Trump or DeSantis because they believe he’s too similar to Trump.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum reportedly preparing 2024 announcement
Former Vice President Mike Pence talks with Will Rogers, left, during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. | Charlie Neibergall, Associated Press

Pence will be in Iowa this weekend ahead of his expected launch to attend Republican Sen. Joni Ernst’s, “Roast and Ride.” The event will draw other 2024 contenders, including DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Then next week, Pence is slated to appear on a CNN town hall.

Christie last ran for president in 2016 but dropped out after the New Hampshire primary. He went on to endorse Trump and for a time chaired Trump’s transition team. He’s since become a vocal critic of Trump and has said he doesn’t believe Trump could win a general election.

Electability has been an argument made by others, including DeSantis and Haley. A Quinnipiac poll released last month found a close race between President Joe Biden and his top two prospective Republican opponents, but the poll found Biden beats Trump 48% to 46% among registered voters, while DeSantis narrowly beats Biden 47% to 46%. The poll did not ask about a matchup between Biden and Pence or other candidates.