The Republican candidates running for US president

(Reuters) - Nine Republican candidates have qualified for the party's debates so far as they seek the nomination to take on Democratic U.S. President Joe Biden, who is running for reelection in the November 2024 presidential contest.

Here is a list of the Republican Party's leading candidates.

DONALD TRUMP

Trump, 77, has embraced his indictments in four separate state or federal criminal cases - unprecedented for a former American president - which have boosted his popularity among Republicans and helped make him the frontrunner in his party's race for the presidential nomination.

Trump has called the indictments part of a politically motivated witch hunt to thwart his pursuit of a second four-year term, an assertion that the Justice Department has denied. In a sign of his extraordinary hold on his party, just two rivals at the first Republican presidential debate on Aug. 23 said they would not support him as the nominee if he were convicted.

Trump has vowed to enact tougher immigration restrictions and harsher curbs on trade with China, and to carry out political reprisals against those he perceives to have wronged him. He has a firm grip on his party's right wing, but may struggle to get moderates and independents to support him in a general election should he win the Republican nomination.

RON DESANTIS

After a glitch-filled campaign launch in May on Twitter, now called X, DeSantis has positioned himself to the right of Trump on a number of key social issues such as abortion. But his well-funded campaign has struggled to gain traction, and his top donor has said he won't give the Florida governor more money unless DeSantis adopts a more moderate approach.

DeSantis, 45, is Trump's top rival, but remains nearly 40 percentage points behind the former president in opinion polls. He has fired staff and rebooted his campaign several times since May, but those steps have done little to boost his candidacy. DeSantis' campaign says it is focused on stopping Trump in Iowa, where the party will hold its first nominating contest in January.

MIKE PENCE

Trump's vice president has broken with his former boss over Trump supporters' Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as Pence was inside, presiding over Congress's certification of Biden's 2020 victory. Pence, 64, says, "history will hold Trump accountable" for his role in the attack.

A staunch conservative, the former Indiana governor is appealing directly to the evangelical Christian community. His campaign, however, has struggled to raise money and he is stuck in the low single digits in opinion polls.

VIVEK RAMASWAMY

A former biotechnology investor and executive, Ramaswamy, 38, started a company in 2022 to pressure firms to abandon environmental, social, and corporate governance initiatives. The political outsider has stoked grassroots chatter as a potential alternative to Trump. Ramaswamy is a fervent supporter of the former president, and says that if he won the White House, he would pardon Trump.

NIKKI HALEY

A former South Carolina governor and Trump's ambassador to the United Nations, Haley, 51, has emphasized her relative youth compared to Biden and Trump, as well as her background as the daughter of Indian immigrants.

Haley has gained a reputation in the Republican Party as a solid conservative who has the ability to address issues of gender and race in a more credible fashion than many of her peers. She has also pitched herself as a stalwart defender of American interests abroad. She has low single-digit support among Republicans, according to opinion polls.

TIM SCOTT

The only Black Republican U.S. senator has low name recognition outside his home state of South Carolina, but his optimism and focus on unifying his divided party have helped him draw a contrast with a more aggressive approach from Trump and DeSantis. Scott's supporters, however, acknowledge that while his sunny demeanor is a selling point, it may not be enough to win. Scott, 58, attracted 2% support among Republicans, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling.

ASA HUTCHINSON

The former Arkansas governor launched his bid for the White House in April with a call for Trump to step aside to deal with the former president's first indictment. Hutchinson, 72, has touted his experience leading his deeply conservative state as proof he can deliver on policies Republican voters care about, citing tax cuts and job creation initiatives.

Still, his name recognition remains limited outside Arkansas, and he earned no support among Republicans polled by Reuters/Ipsos. Hutchinson qualified for the first Republican debate, but not the second one.

CHRIS CHRISTIE

Christie, 61, advised Trump's White House campaign, but became a vocal critic of the former president after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack. The former New Jersey governor and federal prosecutor stepped up his verbal attacks as Trump faced a growing number of criminal charges.

Christie has received about 2% support among Republicans in Reuters/Ipsos polls.

DOUG BURGUM

Burgum, 67, is serving his second four-year term as North Dakota's governor after selling his software business to Microsoft in 2001. A proponent of low taxes and fewer regulations, he has sought to portray himself as a traditional conservative with a focus on the economy and national security. One of the least-known contenders, he gets close to no support in polls.

OTHER CANDIDATES

Several other Republicans are also vying for the nomination, including right-wing radio host Larry Elder, though neither has gained enough traction so far to qualify for the debates.

(Compiled by the Washington newsroom; editing by Jonathan Oatis)