The most wide-open presidential nomination race for the Republican Party in memory had an unofficial opening on Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.

The event highlighted again the difficult path the candidates will have as they attempt to attract support from the conservative base of the party without compromising hopes of winning the general election.

In the upcoming months, the large number of candidates will feel a strong pull to their right by the activists in the GOP that have become much more conservative over the last eight years.

That the start of the presidential race came to this event that Rep. Steve King of Iowa hosted who is one of the most outspoken members of the party on immigration as well as other issues, only served to highlight the risks ahead.

The lessons learned from the ultimately unsuccessful campaign by Mitt Romney in 2012 are fresh in the minds of all candidates and the strategists.

In an effort to show his leans to the right, Romney at one time called himself severely conservative and took positions on taxes and immigration that dogged him during the entire campaign.

Avoiding those types of mistakes will be on every candidate’s checklist. However, with a field of GOP candidates that could reach 12 or more, and with the competition fierce trying to find a slice of the electorate upon which he can build a campaign foundation, there is sure to be a tendency to push too much, with the result possibly costly.

This year’s presidential campaign for Republicans will be unique not only because of how wide open it is, but also due to the wealth of choices the voters will have from the different factions and wings of the party.

Establishment Republicans, who have long been dominant in the nominating process, might be able to choose from Romney, Jeb Bush and Chris Christie.

The very conservative activists in the party might have even more candidates to choose from. That group includes the two most recent Iowa caucuses winners in Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, as well as Ted Cruz a Texas Senator, Ben Carson and Bobby Jindal the Governor of Louisiana.

Get Analysts' Upgrades and Downgrades Daily - Enter your email address below to receive a concise daily summary of analysts' upgrades, downgrades and new coverage with's FREE daily email newsletter.