By Jacob Solis
While the national conventions may be more than a year away, a lone Democrat and a widening group of Republicans have already taken to the campaign trail in hopes of taking the presidency come November 2016. Below are the four candidates who’ve officially announced and a summary of others likely to announce.
Hillary Clinton – former Secretary of State
Clinton maintains one of the more robust resumes among presidential contenders, having been first lady, a U.S. senator and secretary of state. The only first lady to ever run for office, Clinton was also the first woman to be elected senator for the state of New York in 2000, an office she held for eight years.
In 2008, Clinton ran for the Democratic nomination with hopes of becoming the first woman president, only to be defeated by then-senator Barack Obama. Later that year, Obama appointed Clinton as secretary of state, an office she held for six years. During and after her tenure, she came under fire from both Congress and the public, first following the death of a U.S. ambassador in Benghazi, Libya, and again as allegations arose surrounding her use of a private email during her time in the State Department.
A darling of the Democratic establishment, Clinton is the heavy favorite going into the nominating convention as no serious Democratic contenders have emerged to oppose her. Heavy-hitters in the Democratic Party, notably Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have mostly bowed out or simply shown a lack of interest. However, in the general, Clinton will have to keep an eye on the Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who remains popular across crucial parts of her base.
Ted Cruz – US Senator
Elected by Texas as senator in 2012, Cruz had previously served as Texas’ solicitor general for five years. In that time, Cruz was the youngest, longest-serving and first Latino solicitor general in the state’s history. Cruz is also one of three Latinos currently serving in the US Senate.
A staunch conservative, Cruz has made a name for himself by shirking the oft-maligned establishment wing of the Republican Party in favor of the markedly more conservative Tea Party wing. Notably, Cruz has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration, particularly the Affordable Care Act or “Obamacare,” and has actively used the senate filibuster as political and public relations weapon.
Of the Republicans who’ve already hit the campaign trail, Cruz is likely the furthest shot from the presidency. With his ideology being so far to the right, his base will lie within the various ultra-conservative and anti-establishment coalitions within the GOP, such as the Tea Party conservatives or libertarians, who are exceedingly upset with current party leadership. It could certainly be done, but the issue is that where Cruz must work to wrangle these groups together, Rand Paul may already have more than one in his pocket.
Rand Paul – US Senator
A senator from Kentucky, Paul was originally an ophthalmologist for 17 years before running for the senate in 2010. The son of former US representative Ron Paul, the senator has become one of the more visible politicians on the Hill, especially following his nearly 13-hour long filibuster of the nomination of CIA Director John O. Brennan in 2013.
Among all the candidates, Paul’s ideology leans furthest toward libertarianism. He has come out anti-abortion, criticized the Federal Reserve while advocating for reduced taxes and increased privacy protection. On foreign policy, Paul is vehemently anti-war and anti-intervention, a stance that has drawn the ire of hawkish congressmen on both sides of the aisle and criticisms that he is excessively isolationist.
While voters from across the spectrum are drawn to his varied policy stances, Paul has established himself as somewhat temperamental, especially with the media, with whom he has found himself embroiled in a war of words on more than one occasion. Besides that struggle, Paul will also have to contend with the fact that while his base may be broad, it may not be all that large — a weakness that will make or break him during the primaries.
Marco Rubio – US Senator
Rubio, elected to the U.S. senate in 2010, is also one of the three Latinos serving in the senate. Prior to his tenure in Washington, Rubio served as a city commissioner in his hometown of Miami before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
Rubio is likely best remembered for delivering the Republican response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address. In doing so, Rubio was the first to deliver a response in both English and Spanish and was propped up as a likable face for the GOP. However, the meat of the speech, which attempted to draw a hardline stance against the imminent sequester, was severely undercut by another unofficial and contrarian response delivered by none other than Rand Paul.
Rubio’s toughest challenge will likely come from fellow Floridian and former governor Jeb Bush, who has yet to announce his candidacy. Bush not only controls the money from the already-established “Right to Rise” political action committee, but also the boon of being the third and (currently) most popular member of the Bush dynasty. Ignoring Bush, Rubio will still have to win at least one of the early primaries in order to maintain viability down the road.
Unannounced – Other Democratic candidates who are likely to run include Martin O’Malley, a former governor of Maryland, Jim Webb, a former US senator, and Lincoln Chafee, a former governor of Rhode Island. Current vice president Joe Biden has yet to confirm or deny presidential ambitions and has said that if any announcement were made, it would wait until the summer.
From the GOP, a multitude of candidates have expressed serious interest in a presidential run, but the most notable names include Bush, who has been busy raising money, Chris Christie, the current governor of New Jersey who has recently taken a liking to visiting Iowa, and Scott Walker, the current Wisconsin governor who has been busy raising campaign funds of his own through a 527 committee.
Other likely republicans include Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, each of whom ran and lost in 2012, as well as Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, businesswoman Carly Fiorina and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. All in all, the Republican nomination contest is shaping up to be a more heated race than its Democratic counterpart.
Jacob Solis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.