Who Are The Presidential Candidates For 2016?

The number of candidates for the 2016 presidential elections can become quite confusing. There are those who are actually running, those who are gathering support, others who have dropped out, and others still whom voters want to see run, but are not, as of the moment. Also, since the polls tend to list only the top candidates of the moment, some candidates may drop off the awareness of voters, even if they are running.

republicans vs democrats

Currently, there are twenty-one presidential candidates for 2016. Six are running as Democrats, and fifteen as Republicans. There is one other candidate exploring the idea of running as a Democrat, while two candidates have dropped out of the Republican running.

The Democrat Presidential Candidates 2016

For the Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former Secretary of State, is the leading candidate. Following her is Bernie Sanders, Senator of Vermont. Their second runner-up is Martin O’Malley, former Governor of Maryland. Following them are Lincoln Chafee, former Governor of Rhode Island; Lawrence Lessig, a professor in Harvard; and Jim Webb, a former Senator of Virginia. Vice President Joe Biden has yet to decide.

The Republican Presidential Candidates 2016

After the first Republican debates, media personality and real estate mogul Donald Trump remained at the top of the polls. He is followed by neurosurgeon Ben Carson, whose popularity partly stems from his performance in those same debates. They are not-too-closely followed by Jeb Bush, former Governor of Florida.

republican candidates 2016

The other Republican candidates include Chris Christie, Governor of New Jersey; Ted Cruz, Senator of Texas; Carly Fiorina, former business executive; Jim Gilmore, former Governor of Virginia; Lindsey Graham, former Senator of South Carolina; Mike Huckabee, former Governor of Arkansas; Bobby Jindal, Governor of Louisiana; John Kasich, Governor of Ohio; George Pataki, former Governor of New York; Rand Paul, former Senator of Kentucky; Marco Rubio, Senator of Florida; Rick Santorum, former Senator of Pennsylvania.

Former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker have both dropped out of the Republican race.

The Complete List of Presidential Candidates for 2016

Jeb Bush (Republican)

Jeb Bush was Governor of Florida for two consecutive terms, from 1998 to 2006. His pre-political background includes management of a Texas Commerce Bank branch in Venezuela, and partnership in The Codina Group’s real estate. After his Governorship, Bush served on the boards of companies such as Tenet Healthcare, InnoVida, and Rayonier. He declared interest in the presidency in 2014, and declared his candidacy on June 15, 2015.

Jeb Bush has an inflexible stance on Common Core standards for education, unequivocally supporting them. He supports state right in enforcing the standards, but says firmly that higher standards are needed. Bush also supports legal status for illegal immigrants, and immigration that is supportive of the economy. His idea of punishment for illegal immigrants is asking them to earn legal status and contribute to the economy.

jeb bush

Bush’s foreign policy tends toward preemptive security measures and peace-keeping abroad, as well as open trade deals to expand the economy as much as possible. On domestic issues, Bush supports the traditional definition of marriage, and refuses abortion except for pregnancies caused by rape or incest. Bush also supports tax cuts and a smaller government role in the economy, a traditionally Republican stance on the economy.

Jeb Bush has the advantage of speaking fluent Spanish and having a Hispanic wife, facts that will likely gain favor with Democrats and in the swing states. He also references his faith as the support behind his stances on traditional marriage and abortion, which places him in favor with the Republican center and right.

Ben Carson (Republican)

Ben Carson was the John Hopkins Hospital’s Director of pediatric neurosurgery. Since he was only 33 at the time, he holds the record for youngest director of a major division. He also co-directed the Craniofacial Center, and was a professor of plastic surgery, pediatrics, oncology, and neurosurgery. He is known for separating twins conjoined at the head in 1987. Besides being an emeritus fellow of Yale Corporation, he has been on the boards of the Academy of Achievement, Kellogg Company, and Costco. He retired as a surgeon in 2013. Carson officially declared candidacy on May 4, 2015.


Carson is known for advocating a “flat tax” across the board, the way the Biblical tithe is 10% for any income level. This, he believes, is both proportional and fair. On immigration, Carson would rather not give legal status to illegal immigrants due for deportation, as domestic society would still need to support them. He suggests that illegal immigrants earn permanent residence status instead.

Carson’s foreign policy supports the possibility of waging a “just war” on the ISIS, ending the regional conflict. On domestic issues, Carson is pro-life, and pro-traditional marriage. He also proposes a tax-exempt health savings account given to each citizen at birth, to support their late-life medical requirements.

Ben Carson’s advantage partly lies in that he held no political offices prior to seeking the highest in the land. He is the first to admit that there are some issues he has to study more carefully, but his humility makes him seem trustworthy even so.

Lincoln Chafee (Democrat)


Lincoln Chafee has a remarkable pre-political career, having worked as a farrier for seven years. In 1992, he was elected Mayor of Warwick for four consecutive terms. In 2000, Chafee was elected Senator. In 2007, he became a fellow of the Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies, Brown University. He also became part of the J Street advisory board. In 2010, Chafee was elected Governor of Rhode Island for one term. In April of 2015 he declared interest in the presidency, and declared candidacy on June 3, 2015.

On domestic policies, Lincoln Chafee holds the traditionally Democratic positions of pro-choice for abortion, and he supports non-traditional marriages. He believes that this freedom of choice is part of the original plan for America. On immigration, Chafee supports “guest-worker status,” leading to paths to citizenship.

Chafee opposes tax cuts, but wants the minimum wage raised. On foreign policy, he opposed the Iraq War as the doorway for the ISIS, and encourages the U.S. to improve diplomatic relations with both Iran and Russia; the latter especially, since the Ukraine conflict has nothing to do with the U.S. Chafee does not support allowing Israel to expand onto the West Bank, instead supporting a cease of conflict in the region.

Chafee’s advantage would most probably be his relatively humble background before entering politics. However, as a candidate running against heavyweights such as Clinton, it seems unlikely that he will rise to prominence anytime soon.

Chris Christie (Republican)

Chris Christie’s pre-political record begins in the law firm of Dughi, Hewitt & Palatucci; he was named a partner in 1993. In 2001, Christie was appointed U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey by President George W. Bush, and held that office until 2008. In 2009, Christie was elected Governor of New Jersey for two consecutive terms (until 2013). On June 30, 2015, Christie declared his candidacy.


Christie, who encouraged Common Core standards in education for New Jersey since the beginning of his governorship, has recently taken a more flexible stance. Currently, a Common Core Review Committee has a 3-month deadline to study if the standards have been working for New Jersey.

Christie’s foreign policy supports the possible use of the military on the ground to resist the ISIS, and resists diplomatic relations with both Iran and Russia. On immigration, Christie believes that cracking down on employers of illegal immigrants would be more effective than chasing down illegal immigrants. He does not resist deportation, but is not opposed to their education within the system. On domestic issues, Christie is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage, although he views resistance to same-sex marriage as useless.

Christie does not currently have much of an advantage as a Republican candidate. In addition, his perceived flip-flopping on social issues such as the Common Core standards and abortion do not count in his favor. However, his strong campaign against corruption during his time as U.S. District Attorney of New Jersey may keep some in his favor.


Hillary Rodham Clinton (Democrat)

Hillary Rodham Clinton was First Lady of Arkansas from 1978 to 1980 and 1982 to 1991, and First Lady of the United States from 1992 to 2001. Her otherwise pre-political career was composed of legal practice as a partner of Rose Law Firm, and chairmanship and board membership for women and children’s organizations. She served two terms as Senator, from 2000 to 2008. She also served as Secretary of State for the Obama Administration from 2009 to 2015. Hillary Clinton declared her presidential candidacy on April 12, 2015.

Clinton prefers to take away tax cuts and privileges for “the common good,” to reduce the national debt and use extra Federal funds to give tax cuts and privileges to lower-income deserving families. Clinton is pro-choice as the woman’s reproductive right, and pro-non-traditional marriage as something that honors individuals’ choices of heirs or rights as simple as hospital visits.

Clinton believes that it is impractical, and not consistent with American values, to attempt deportation of all illegal immigrants. Rather, they should have a way to earn their citizenship through economic contribution. In her foreign policy, Clinton is supportive of Israel and the West Bank barrier—in other words, no expansion. Clinton also supports aiding Syrian moderates to combat the power vacuum presently filled by the ISIS, and encourages the Iran nuclear deal as a peaceful option.


Clinton is the current “favored one” of the Democrats, due to her impressive record and years of experience. Her main advantage lies in her liberal views and advocacy of women and children’s rights.

Ted Cruz (Republican)

Ted Cruz’s pre-political career is all law-related; he was the first Hispanic clerk to a Chief Justice. He then worked privately unttil 1998. Cruz became a domestic policy adviser to President George W. Bush in 1999, and then served as Texas Solicitor General from 2003 to 2008. He then went back to private practice before running for and becoming Senator in 2012 until 2015. Cruz declared his candidacy for the presidency on March 23, 2015.

Ted Cruz supports state choice of standards rather than strengthening the Common Core. He also opposes the Affordable Care Act as he sees it draining government resources, and supports privatization of health care. Cruz is against non-traditional marriage but supports state choice, but is staunchly pro-life (compromise only when the mother’s life is in danger).


Cruz is firmly and decidedly against allowing illegal immigrants to stay in the country, even the “DREAMers” protected under the Obama Administration. He is the original advocate of wall-building on the Mexican border, before Trump’s suggestion. Cruz is also against the Iran deal, seeing it as a path to war, and suggests bombing ISIS, but not concerning the U.S. in the Syrian war. Cruz is for Israel expansion as well.

Crz is outspoken and conservative, sure to find favor with the Republican right. However, he unashamedly lambasts his own party’s senators for following the Democrat policies, and may be considered too controversial on topics such as Planned Parenthood funding, without the suave speech to make it appealing.

Carly Fiorina (Republican)

From 1980 to 1995 Fiorina worked with AT&T, ending as head of North American operations. From 1995 to 1999, Fiorina worked for Lucent Technologies, Inc., ending as president of the global group. From 1999 to 2005, she worked with Hewlett-Packard as chief executive officer. Following that, she took up both chairmanship and board membership in organizations such as Revolution Health Group, and her own Fiorina Foundation and Good360. Fiorina announced her candidacy on May 4, 2015.


In her immigration policy, Fiorina distinguishes between illegal entrants and legal entrants overstaying their visas. For the first, there can be no citizenship; for the second, it may be earned. On healthcare, she opposes the Affordable Care Act, and proposes Federal subsidies only for those who truly cannot afford that care. Fiorina also opposes Common Core standards for schools as too bureaucratic.

Fiorina holds to a rather aggressive foreign and military policy, and supports arming the Ukraine, Poland, and Germany against Russia in the Crimean conflict. She is also against the Iran nuclear deal, seeming to prefer unilateral action rather than multilateral, and opposes friendly diplomatic relations with Cuba and China. On domestic issues, Fiorina is pro-traditional marriage, but supports civil unions. She is also pro-life.

Fiorina distinguished herself winning the undercard of the first Republican debates, and is now close behind Trump in the polls. She has clear, immoveable views on foreign policy and Planned Parenthood, and is impressive both by her preparedness and apparent will to win. There seems to be much more to come.


Mike Huckabee (Republican)

Huckabee began his pre-political career as part of televangelist James Robinson’s staff. He then became pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church, Pine Bluff, and of Beech Street Baptist Church, Texarkana, from 1980 to 1986 and1986 to 1992, respectively. Huckabee served as Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas from 1993 to 1996, as Governor of Arkansas from 1996 to 2007. A short break saw him with a television contract with a book deal, amidst rumors that he would pursue the presidency in 2008 and then in 2012. Huckabee declared his candidacy for the 2016 elections on May 5, 2015.

Predictably, Huckabee is pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. On education, he is against Common Core standards and any other attempt to standardize the school system, speaking in favor of school choice, local decision-making on education, and homeschooling. Huckabee also opposes the Affordable Care Act as responsive but not preventive.


Huckabee’s foreign policy focuses on rejecting the Iranian deal, or at least increasing the pressure and gaining more promises in favor of Israel, the return of American prisoners, and less anti-American sentiment. The other side of it deals with lowering U.S. dependency on outside energy, to pull power away from nations like Russia and Saudi Arabia. His immigration policy is just as strong, involving a fence but also allowing more skilled workers in, legally.

Huckabee’s faith is a big part of him, but it may slow his support from the more centrist Republicans, and definitely from the Democrat and many independent voters.

John Kasich (Republican)


The year after earning his undergraduate degree in political science, Kasich worked as an administrative assistant to Senator Buz Lukens of Ohio from 1975 to 1978. In 1978, Kasich was the youngest ever elected Ohio state senator, and he kept the post until 1982. Kasich became Congressman of Ohio from 1982 to 2000. From 2001 to 2009, Kasich went to the private sector and became a host on Fox News, as well as a managing director for Lehman Brothers. From 2010 until the present, Kasich is serving his second consecutive term as Governor of Ohio. He declared his candidacy on July 21, 2015.

On social issues, Kasich opposes the Affordable Care Act, criticizing it as inefficient and costly because it attempts to cover to many people. He proposes instead to expand the Medicaid services, and then aim Federal funding only where it is badly needed for healthcare. Kasich also opposes Common Core standards, saying that it is the states and local boards who would best know how to form their educational standards.

Kasich has three non-conflicting views on immigration. First, there should be no problem with allowing children born in the U.S. to be citizens. Second, illegal entrants may be given legal status. And third, no more illegal entrants should be allowed in. For his foreign policy, Kasich supports fighting the ISIS militarily, but as much as possible, not unilaterally.

Kasich is nearly centrist in his views, which may lose him support at the moment, simply because his voice is relatively soft compared to other candidates’.

Lawrence Lessig (Democrat)

Lessig was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School from 1991 to 1997, and at the Harvard Law School from 1997 to 2000, before moving to Stanford Law School from 2000 to 2009. From 2009 to the present, Lessig moved back to Harvard Law School to direct the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics. Lessig has a history of activism against corruption in Congress and the restrictions on free-flowing data, as well as the surveillance activities of Congress. Lessig declared his determination to seek the presidency on September 6, 2015.


Lessig is running on a platform that promises election reform—and nothing else—within one year. This is consistent with his activism against Congressional corruption. Basically, Lessig plans to reform the system within a single year, and then step down. According to Lessig, “The fundamental weakness of our democracy is Congress.”

First, Lessig’s goal is to increase the participation rate of the voters, by streamlining the voting process. He supports online registration of voters, automatic voter registration for 18-year-olds, and the moving of Election Day to a weekend. Second, Lessig aims to bring the Congress seats back to proportional representation through “multi-member congressional districts.” Last, Lessig pushes for citizen-funded campaigns. Each voter would have a voucher representing a certain amount of cash, and then they could turn it over to the candidate they wish to support.

Lessig has managed to gain attention because of his unusual stand. However, how he will hold his own against the top three Democrat candidates remains to be seen.

Martin O’Malley (Democrat)


Martin O’Malley interacted early with politics, serving as campaign staff for various electoral candidates while still in college. When he was not on campaign staff or running for office, O’Malley was applying his law degree as a legislative fellow and subsequent State’s Attorney of Baltimore until 1990. O’Malley ran for and was elected Mayor of Baltimore from 2000 to 2006, and Governor of Maryland from 2006 to 2014. O’Malley declared candidacy on May 30, 2015.

O’Malley’s immigration policies are inclusive, supporting a path to citizenship, lack of fear from deportation, and asylum given to political refugees, especially women and children. O’Malley’s foreign policies reflect the same open attitude; he supports the Iran nuclear deal, and welcomes the chance of negotiation with that nation, while maintaining good relations with Israel. O’Malley includes Syria’s refugee plight in his foreign policy, suggesting that 65,000 should be taken in.

Rather than focusing on education or healthcare, O’Malley may have the clearest gun control policies of the 2016 presidential candidate roster. He proposes to raise the minimum age of possession and ownership to twenty-one, in an attempt to cut down on gun violence (not only homicides, but suicides and accidental discharges). O’Malley also proposes the expansion and strengthening of background checks before every gun sale.

O’Malley is the second runner-up in the Democrat race, a liberal with strong faith that may give him voters across the party spectrum—if his voice can reach beyond his opponents.

Rand Paul (Republican)

Rand Paul is a qualified ophthalmologist, and practiced ophthalmology from 1993 to 2010. In 2010, Paul ran and was elected as U.S. Senator of Kentucky, for three consecutive terms (until the present). Paul’s history of political activism and his senatorial career focus on two things: the resistance of tax increases, and the cutting down of Federal spending, particularly in the Departments of Education and Homeland Security. Paul declared his candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections on April 7, 2015.


Paul believes that funding for education is spent too much at the Federal level and rarely, if ever, reaches the state and local levels. Schools should be in competition, and Common Core standards removed. He holds healthcare to the same standards, stating that the free market should determine health care costs, not excessive government intervention; in other words, Paul opposes the Affordable Care Act as well.

Paul presents his foreign policy in an interesting manner, suggesting that interventionism might actually be more of a security threat to the U.S. than diplomatic negotiation. He cites the emergence of ISIS after the Iraq War as one example. On immigration, Paul states that border security is the first and foremost step, before any questions of amnesty or legal status may be settled. However, he does not support amnesty in any case.

While Paul himself says that he is not dropping out of the race, he may have to choose between the presidential and senatorial races to convince voters of his commitment, before increasing his presidential campaign impact.


Marco Rubio (Republican)

Marco Rubio became Congressman in the Florida House of Representatives for four consecutive terms, from 2000 to 2008. In 2010, Rubio was elected U.S. Senator from Florida, and serves in that office until the present. During his tenures both as Congressman and Senator, Rubio was a strong advocate of tax reform, lessening the burden for the middle class. Rubio declared his candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections on April 13, 2015.

Rubio opposes the Affordable Care Act, and presents a three-part alternative. He suggests a tax credit that citizens can use to buy health insurance, that other alternatives should be offered such as insurance across state lines and health savings accounts, and that Medicare and Medicaid should be reformed instead. Rubio also opposes Common Core standards for education, stating that decisions should be made at the local and state levels without fear of being cut from Federal funding.


Rubio wants to secure the border against illegal entrants. However, he is supportive of the acceptance of legal foreign workers into the country, with a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants already inside. In foreign policy, Rubio is critical of the power vacuum left in the Middle East through the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and adds that the vacuum was left so long that it is being filled by Russia. Rubio also opposes the Iran nuclear deal.

Marco Rubio has appeal through his youth, his Cuban-American parentage, and his conservative views, which gives him potential support across a wide cross section of American voters.

Bernie Sanders (Democrat)

Sanders ran for governor and senator in 1972, for governor in 1974, and for senator in 1976 under the Liberty Union Party, of which he was a member from 1971 to 1979. Sanders then worked as director and writer for the American People’s Historical Society. Sanders then ran for and was elected as Mayor of Burlington from 1981 to 1989. In 2000, Sanders was elected Congressman of Vermont for three consecutive terms, until 2006. Sanders was then elected U.S. Senator in 2006, and holds that office until the present. He declared his candidacy to the 2016 presidential elections on April 30, 2015.


On education, Sanders advocates supporting preschools for better quality early childhood education, as well as making public colleges tuition-free and reducing student loan interest rates. Sanders also opposes standardized testing as ineffective education. Sanders also opposes the Affordable Care Act, preferring complete and universal health coverage and the liberalization of pharmaceutical products. Health insurance would become supplementary to the overall Federal health coverage.

For immigration, Sanders would rather give legal status to illegal immigrants, but does not encourage the influx or more immigrants through guest worker visas, and advocates securing the border. His foreign policy is clearly and consistently one opposing preemptive and unilateral military action. Sanders’ approach covers a number of approaches, including the cutting of terrorist funding, reducing online terrorism, and the provision of humanitarian relief in conflict-ridden areas.

Sanders is gaining ground partly because Clinton is losing support gradually. However, he still needs wider appeal across the voting blocs.

Donald Trump (Republican)

Donald Trump, like the two other Republican frontrunners Carson and Fiorina, did not hold any political office prior to running for the presidency. His career was exclusively in real estate from 1968 to 2003, taking on building and development projects under the Trump Organization. From 2003 to 2015, Trump was host and executive producer of the reality show The Apprentice, on NBC. Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections on June 16, 2015.


On education, Donald Trump is clear about opposing the Common Core standards and supporting local and state rights, but not much on how. On healthcare, Trump is interestingly like Bernie Sanders in advocating universal healthcare, even though he openly admits, “this is an un-Republican thing for me to say.” He suggests the liberalization of healthcare, with individuals freely choosing their healthcare providers, doctors, and so forth, to cut down on costs.

Trump is clearer, and louder, on the immigration issue. He describes three points of immigration reform. First, build a wall along the U.S.’ southern border. Second, follow the current laws on illegal immigrants and fund more oversight facilities. Last, make sure jobs reach American citizens first. Trump’s foreign policy is also outlined clearly. Concerning the ISIS, Trump suggests that Russia should continue to fight them in Syria. He also wants to cut trade deals and American global security presence.

Donald Trump is the current leading candidate because he is perceived as unpolitical, but his unsound policies may yet be his downfall.

Jim Webb (Democrat)


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Jim Webb’s pre-political career began with military service in Vietnam, and then as an Officer Candidates School instructor at the Quantico Marine Corps Base. His career ended in medical retirement. From 1977 to 2006, Webb served in several bureaucratic positions, including staffer in the House Committee on Veterans Affairs until 1981, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs until 1987, and Secretary of the Navy from 1987 to 1988. Later, he served as U.S. Senator from 2006 to 2012. Webb declared his candidacy for the 2016 presidential elections on July 2, 2015.

In education, Webb focuses on making it easier for children to finish their education, starting from the preschool level upwards. Less-privileged students should be given better preschool opportunities, the youth should be encouraged to take second chances at high school, and college loan interests should be decreased. On healthcare, despite initially supporting the Affordable Care Act, he believes that the scope was too unfocused for efficiency.

For his immigration policy, Jim Webb advocates first securing the border, before creating a way for illegal immigrants to gain citizenship. He also accepts legal status for the “DREAMers.” Webb also is not too supportive of the Iran nuclear deal, saying that Iran has not conceded enough. Webb is cautious on the idea of military presence in any region because it is too difficult to leave, and prefers not to act unilaterally if the U.S. must act militarily.

At the moment, Webb is not particularly in the running. His record is strong, but his campaign leaves much to be desired.

The Presidential Candidates

At the moment, the field is crowded enough that the top candidates still need to leverage the field to keep their places. As the debates continue, the back-and-forth discussions may confuse voters as to where their candidates stand. This overview and its summaries of the policy stands of each candidate on significant issues should provide a baseline from which to understand the succeeding debates and interviews given by these candidates.

About the author

Esther has a B.A. in Humanities and an M.A. in Political Economy. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing Sequence with her family, training in Aikido, and curling up with coffee and a good book.