George Pataki
The moderate wing of the Republican Party's 2016 presidential field got more crowded Thursday when former New York Gov. George Pataki announced his candidacy. He is seen in Exeter, New Hampshire, May 28, 2015. Reuters/Dominick Reuter

WASHINGTON -- With former New York Gov. George Pataki joining the Republican presidential race Thursday, the GOP is well on its way to one of the most crowded fields in memory. And it’s not just the conservatives who are filling up the right side of the spectrum. Pataki adds to a growing number of candidates who are closer to the center.

"My vision was not a partisan vision. It was a vision about people, about what we could accomplish together," Pataki said in a video announcement. "If we are to flourish as a people, we have to fall in love with America again."

But the New Yorker faces a decidedly uphill run in such a crowded field. Pataki aims to position himself as a small government advocate while capitalizing on his role as the governor of New York during the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Also vying for the middle -- and establishment backing -- are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and potentially Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who appears set to try to court both moderates and conservatives.

All of the candidates are competing for a slice of same the fundraising pie. Bush went to work in December -- almost two years before the election -- to lock up donors and raise enough money to scare off potential rivals. And while he may not hit his $100 million target, he’s likely to outraise any other candidate by millions. And that makes it more difficult for someone like Pataki, out of office for eight years and with little name recognition, to gain fundraising traction.

Although he was a three-term governor, Pataki left office in 2007, and Republicans have barely been a factor in New York statewide elections since then. Many in his own party view him as too moderate, and he lacks much grassroots support. He is barely even showing up in national polls. And he doesn’t have any high-profile backers.

If raising money wasn’t enough of a problem, Pataki will struggle to get onto the debate stage. The Republican Party has decreed that candidates may participate only in party-approved debates. And the first debate hosted by Fox will only include those candidates who rank in the top 10 of a series of recent polls -- making it impossible for someone like Pataki to build momentum on the debate stage.