It’s only Fall 2015 but it’s high time to get our heads around the 2016 presidential candidates. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably already heard a lot about some of the candidates (eh hem, rhymes with dump), but the current list of players is long, and can be hard to navigate. Which is why we’ve come up with this cheat sheet of who’s who in the race to the Oval Office.
Before we get to the key people to know, let’s talk about timing. It’s important to note that there is still a LOT of time before you hit the ballot box, so the list of candidates is sure to change quite a bit between now and when you actually get to weigh in on who should rule our country. There are several Republican and Democratic primary debates scheduled for the upcoming months in 2015, and then beginning in early 2016 we’ll get to the primaries and caucuses, long before we finally reach Election Day in November 2016. This timeline is a great resource for all the upcoming events, and if you remember none of those key dates, remember this: there’s a lot going on, and a lot can happen between now and then.
OK, onto the 2016 presidential candidates. Here’s a who’s who list of all the major players you should know about as of today (in alphabetical order).
REPUBLICANS (there are a lot)
Jeb Bush Yup, another Bush is running for office. Brother to former president George W. Bush, Jeb Bush previously served as governor of Florida from 1999 to 2007, after which he founded the Foundation for Excellence in Education. He has a lot to say about Common Core (he supports it) but he believes the Federal government should create choices, not standards for education.
Ben Carson Carson, aka the retired neurosurgeon with no official political background, has never held an elective office, but he uses that fact to his benefit, stating that he would make a good president because he isn’t a politician, nor does he want to be. He first gained political fame among conservatives in 2013 when he spoke at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, expressing harsh criticism for Obamacare, in front of President Obama, mind you.
Chris Christie Bridgegate, shmidgegate. Governor of New Jersey since 2008, Christie has a lot of charisma and seems to be ready to fight for votes despite the fact that his reputation still suffers from the Bridgegate drama. He tells it like it is, and is positioning himself as the “businessman’s pick for President.”
Ted Cruz Born in Canada (but to an American mother) and raised in Texas, Cruz has been a US Senator in Texas since 2013, when he famously tried to defund Obamacare, resulting in the government shutdown. His top goal is to restore the country’s economy, starting by getting rid of Obamacare, which he calls “the biggest job killer in this country.”
Carly Fiorina Former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina is the only female Republican in the race. She is gaining rapid support after the most recent debate, when she outperformed GOP front-runner Donald Trump, and current polls show that in a head-to-head matchup with Hillary Clinton, Fiorina is on top. With a strong business background, Fiorina claims that she has the knowledge and experience it will take to get the economy growing again.
Jim Gilmore You might remember Gilmore; he ran for president in 2008 but withdrew after 6 months. Previously he was governor of Virginia from 1998 to 2002, during which he cut spending, delivered a balanced budget and had Virginia unemployment levels at record lows.
Lindsey Graham Graham has been in elected office since 1993, most recently as US Senator from South Carolina, and he is a firm supporter of foreign policy interventionism; he argues that he will do whatever it takes to protect our country against terrorism and threats, both foreign and domestic.
Mike Huckabee You might know this name from his failed campaign in 2008, or his news show on Fox News, called “The Huckabee Show.” He’s also the former governor of Arkansas, he is a Christian minister, and he vows to protect Social Security and Medicare.
Bobby Jindal Current governor of Louisiana, Jindal’s parents came to the United States from India over 40 years ago, living what he calls, the American dream. He’s hoping that America is ready to hire a doer, not a talker, and claims that he has successfully cut the size of the budget in Louisiana and created more jobs. He’s against the Iran nuclear deal, wants to increase efforts to secure our border and he’s totally anti-Obamacare.
John Kasich Governor of Ohio since 2011, Kasich previously worked for Lehman Brothers, giving him a mix of political experience and outsider perspective. He’s been criticized in the past for expanding Medicare in Ohio.
George Pataki His tagline, “People over Politics” says a lot. Pataki served 3 terms as governor of New York until 2006, and since then he has served as an environmental lawyer and businessman. He aims to reduce the size and power of the federal government, reduce taxes and replace dependency with opportunity, positions he thinks will appeal to not only conservatives, but also to the entire nation, based on his record with democratic New York voters.
Rand Paul Currently a senator from Kentucky, Paul is also a doctor, earning his medical degree from Duke. He wants dramatically simpler and lower taxes, and a smaller government in Washington that only spends the money that comes in, so that more money stays in the hands of those who produce and earn that money.
Marco Rubio A Florida senator since 2011, Rubio is of Cuban descent, which he talks about a lot in his debates; that heritage influences his support for conservative immigration reform and on Cuban-American relations. Rubio claims that he is better able to connect with lower- to middle-class Americans and he’s hoping to appeal to a youthful and diverse voter.
Rick Santorum Not new to the GOP scene, Santorum came in second place in the Iowa Caucuses during the 2012 Presidential campaign. He is famous for having VERY conservative views on social issues like abortion (he wants to ban it completely.)
Donald Trump We’re not sure we need to say much about Trump, since he says a lot about himself, and you definitely know him from his real estate business and his role on The Apprentice, among other things. A few key points for his presidential campaign: he’s outspoken, he was previously registered as a Democrat even though he is running as a Republican, he has made controversial comments about women and Mexican immigrants, he is one of the wealthiest candidates, and he’s currently the Republican front-runner.
DEMOCRATS (a far shorter list)
Lincoln Chafee Chafee has worked at the local, state and federal level in the past, and strongly opposed the Iraq war, so his fans will likely also be against military interventions abroad. He served as a Republican senator for Rhode Island for 8 years, but ultimately switched to the Democratic Party. PS – fun fact: he was dorm-mates with Jeb Bush back in 10th grade.
Hillary Rodham Clinton Perhaps the best-known candidate in the race, you know Hillary Clinton as the former first lady to President Bill Clinton, and the former secretary of state to President Obama. Since she’s worked closely with 2 presidents, she definitely has an upper hand in some ways. Sure, there is some controversy surrounding her (cough, email account scandal, cough) but she also wants to raise income for the middle class and she plans to be a champion for women’s rights and racial inequality, which could win her a lot of votes.
Martin O’Malley This liberal candidate served as governor of Maryland for 8 years and mayor of Baltimore for 7 years before that. He wants to raise minimum wage to $15 an hour, he aims to focus on helping the middle class and he strongly criticizes the Obama administration’s detention and deportation policies. As one of the younger candidates, he’s banking on American voters (especially the youth) being ready and waiting for a new generation of political leaders.
Bernie Sanders As US Senator from Vermont, and serving in the House of Representatives before that, Sanders has a lot of political experience. Perhaps the most liberal candidate in the lot, Sanders wants to create millions of jobs for the middle class, raise minimum wage, and grant equal pay to women. He also believes in Medicare for all, he was a pioneer for same-sex marriage, and he supports the legalization of medical marijuana. In short, liberal millennials really like this guy.
Jim Webb Webb served one term in the US Senate, and also served in the Vietnam War, as well as secretary of the Navy under President Reagan’s administration. He is the only combat veteran in the running to become President, and he has strongly opposed the Iraq War in addition to other foreign engagements.