What George Pataki's Entry Means for the 2016 Presidential Race

The former N.Y. governor adds a new dimension to the GOP field.

May 28, 2015, 1:05 PM

— -- Republicans have no shortage of presidential contenders, and the field just got even more crowded.

Former New York Gov. George Pataki became the eighth Republican to officially launch a 2016 White House bid on Sunday, telling supporters at an event in Exeter, N.H., that he can pull it off, even as a longshot.

"They told me that when I ran for governor of New York," Pataki said of his doubters. "But I knew I could, and we did."

Pataki isn't on the radar of national polls, but he differs from the other GOP contenders on some major policy issues, adding a new dimension to the 2016 primary.


Just about every Republican candidate is vying to be considered the most conservative candidate in the 2016 race, from social issues to taxes and federal spending.

Pataki boasts of shrinking New York's welfare state and lowering its taxes, to be sure: "In 12 years, New York went from the state with the highest tax burden, the lowest credit rating and billions of dollars in deficits, to a state with $143 billion in lower taxes," he told supporters during his announcement speech.

But he's further to the left, or center, than other Republicans on some key issues. Notably, he believes climate change is a problem and co-chaired the Council on Foreign Relations' Independent Task Force on Climate Change, which recommended a "cap-and-trade" system to limit carbon emissions in the U.S.; and he supported abortion rights as governor, drawing fire from the right.

Just as former Utah governor and U.S. ambassador to China Jon Huntsman did in the last presidential race, Pataki could define what it means to be a "moderate" in the GOP field on certain issues this time around.


"I will not forget the lesson of Sept. 11," Pataki said during his announcement speech in Exeter. "I fear too many in Washington already have."

In stump speeches and cable TV appearances, Pataki regularly makes a point to call out "radical Islam" as America's enemy, and he sides with the likes of Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum in calling for more U.S. ground troops to be sent to Iraq to fight ISIS.

"Send in troops, destroy their training centers, destroy their recruitment centers, destroy the area where they are looking to plan to attack us here and then get out," Pataki told CNN this month.


Republicans now have eight declared candidates, and the party could have as many as 22 if everyone who's expressed interest decides to get in.

That leaves even well-credentialed candidates like Pataki -- a former three-term governor of America's third-largest state -- scrambling for support at the back end of the race. In the most recent major GOP-primary poll, released Thursday by Quinnipiac, Pataki failed to garner even one percent. The leaders, Jeb Bush and Ben Carson, sat at 10 percent each.

Polling fluctuates greatly over the course of a primary, and while it might not matter yet, it will when the debates begin later this year. The Republican National Committee has limited the number of primary debates to nine, and news networks are expected to use polls to determine who gets on stage. In Fox's Aug. 6 debate, for instance, the top 10 candidates in the last five national polls will make it on stage.

So for candidates like Pataki, who haven't shown well in the polls quite yet, an announcement marks the beginning of an uphill climb.

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