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Republican Field To Gain 3 New Presidential Hopefuls


The Republican presidential field is doubling in size with three new official candidates. Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard CEO, announced earlier today, as did retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. He kicked off his campaign in Detroit where he grew up. Tomorrow, Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who ran in 2008, will also announce. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea is in Arkansas and joins us now, and, Don, let's start with Carly Fiorina. She's the only woman in the race on the Republican side. What do you expect from her campaign?

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: She kicked it off in kind of a low-key manner today - no big event, an announcement on Twitter. Later, a video was posted on her website. In that video, she watches the video of Hillary Clinton announcing her candidacy for president. That's not insignificant since Fiorina is likely to be the only woman among the major GOP candidates this year. And she also always talks a lot about her own rise through the business world as a woman, starting out as a Kelly Girl - a temp - and rising to be CEO of Hewlett-Packard.

SIEGEL: A job which didn't end well with her - she was fired as CEO at Hewlett-Packard.

GONYEA: Right, she was ousted after about six years in the job - a big dispute with the board of directors there. And when she talks about Hillary Clinton, she does so in an almost personal way when compared to her male counterparts who are seeking the GOP nomination. Listen to this from a speech she gave at CPAC - that big conference - talking about Hillary Clinton's time as Secretary of State.


CARLY FIORINA: Like Mrs. Clinton, I too have traveled the globe.


FIORINA: Unlike Mrs. Clinton, I know that flying is an activity, not an accomplishment.


SIEGEL: That's Carly Fiorina a couple of months ago at the CPAC conference. She announced today, and now to Ben Carson. He's an African-American doctor with a remarkable resume - raised in poverty in Detroit, head of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins, gained fame for a procedure successfully separating twins joined at the head. Don, when did politics enter the picture for Carson?

GONYEA: It was the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast. He was invited to speak, and this is a place where politics are usually left at the door. And he stood up, with President Obama just a few feet away from him up on the dais, and Ben Carson launched into a very direct attack in critique of the Affordable Care Act of Obamacare. The president wasn't pleased. Democrats weren't pleased. They said it was inappropriate. And with Republicans, a hero was born. And he says that people immediately started encouraging him to run for president. He did so in a big event that he held today in Detroit. Give a listen.


BEN CARSON: We have to have another wave election and bring in people with common sense who actually love our nation and are willing to work for our nation and are more concerned about the next generation than the next election. That's what's going to help us.


SIEGEL: Don, what do you expect the Carson campaign to look like?

GONYEA: You can hear how low-key he is. He's not a politician. He says that. That might make it hard for him to raise money. He actually polls pretty well in the early states, but he is also prone to saying things that stir up controversy. So it'll be a learning experience for him.

SIEGEL: And then tomorrow, Governor Huckabee is set to announce that he's running. He'll do that in Hope, Ark., a hometown that he shares with Bill Clinton.

GONYEA: Yeah, Hope Ark., and Huckabee, you know, ran in 2008 and actually won the Iowa caucuses. Listen, he is an experienced politician. He knows how to do this. He is a proven vote-getter, and he's very, very popular. Now, he's always done really well with the evangelical vote. There are a lot of candidates who will be looking to get that very vote, but expect him to be a very serious player.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Don Gonyea on the latest Republicans announcing that they're making a run for the White House. Don, thank you.

GONYEA: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.