For the past few months, politicians have been declaring their intention to run for the presidency in 2016, and soon Americans can drop any pretense of caring what our current elected officials are up to. However, unless you and your spouse have a weird game that involves memorizing the names of bland white guys who used to be governor, you probably don’t know who a lot of these people are. That’s why we at Daily Intelligencer have compiled a list, which we’ll continue to update, of every credible candidate believed to be mulling a 2016 run (sorry, Vermin Supreme). Study the names below, because one of these people will become president. (Unless we witness the meteoric rise of some charismatic Washington newcomer with a crazy name, but what are the chances of that happening?)
POTENTIAL DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATES
Who: Former first lady, U.S. senator, secretary of State, hair icon, pantsuit aficionado, glass-ceiling cracker, and the biggest front-runner for the Democratic nomination ever.
Signs she’s running: She released a bland memoir, then ran her book tour like a campaign test run. Two super-PACs were fighting over which one would have the privilege of laying the groundwork for her 2016 campaign. In recent weeks, she’s recruited a number of high-profile aides for her budding campaign, including John Podesta, who is leaving his position as White House counselor this month. Also, if you believe the insane and insulting rumors, she commanded her daughter to produce a grandchild she could use as a political prop.
Who: United States vice-president and beloved character from The Onion.
Signs he’s running: Between January and October of 2014, Biden attended more than 34 campaign and fund-raising events all over the country, which could mean that he’s trying to keep up with Hillary Clinton, or that he’s simply fulfilling his duties as a top Democratic official. According to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann’s Double Down, during the 2012 campaign, Biden tried to meet with potential 2016 donors from Silicon Valley and Hollywood, but the White House shut the meetings down. The veep has also publicly admitted he’s considering a run. In January he told the Today show, “I think I could do a good job,” and said on Good Morning America, “There’s a chance, but I haven’t made my mind up about [a 2016 run], we’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then. There’s plenty of time.”
Who: A former one-term Virginia senator. The Vietnam vet is a centrist and served as Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan.
Signs he’s running: He announced in November that he’s launching an exploratory committee to determine whether he should run in 2016.
Who: An independent senator from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats and is a self-described socialist.
Signs he’s running: He declared on Meet the Press in September, “I am thinking about running for president.” He hasn’t decided if he’ll run as a Democrat or a third-party candidate, but said, “Anybody who speaks to the needs of the working class and the middle class of this country and shows the courage to take on the billionaire class — I think that candidate will do pretty well.”
Who: The governor of New York, who was recently reelected to a second term and served as the secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1997 to 2001. His father was the governor of New York from 1983 to 1994.
Signs he’s running: The late Mario Cuomo was famously indecisive about whether to run in 1992 and ultimately decided not to enter the race. Now it looks like his son might follow in his footsteps again. Andrew Cuomo is believed to be interested in the job and recently released what appears to be a campaign memoir. However, he failed to promote the book (he says he may do a tour when he’s less busy), promised to serve out his second term, and just started traveling internationally after rarely leaving New York during his first term. The New York Post claims he wouldn’t challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016 and is instead setting himself up for 2020 (assuming she loses to the Republican in 2016).
Who: The former governor of Maryland, who was unable to run for reelection in 2014 owing to term limits. He was elected in 2006 after serving as chair of the Democratic Governors Association and the Mayor of Baltimore.
Signs he’s running: In July, he told the L.A. Times he’s “seriously considering” a 2016 run. O’Malley campaigned for more than 150 Democratic candidates in the midterms, visiting Iowa four times, and he recently hired a former Hillary Clinton staffer to lead policy development at his political action committee. However, there are some obstacles in his way: O’Malley was a loyal Clinton supporter in the 2008 primaries, and the New York Times says he “lacks a ceiling-cracking selling point” and is “best known in political circles as a competent, statistics-quoting wonk who tends to underwhelm on the stump.”
Who: The former two-term governor of Montana. He’s frequently criticized the Obama administration, and his views are best described as left-wing libertarian. As the Daily Beast explains, he’s “skeptical of the NSA, pro-single payer and pro-marriage equality, but he opposes strict gun control and denounces the Affordable Care Act as ‘corporatist.’”
Signs he’s running: Schweitzer said he was considering a run for the presidency in 2016 before his term as governor ended in 2012. However, last summer he compared Senator Dianne Feinstein to a prostitute and said former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor seems gay, like all Southern men, in a National Journal interview. Though he apologized, many now consider his campaign DOA.
POTENTIAL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES
Who: Serving from 1999 to 2007, Jeb Bush is the only Republican to complete two full terms as the governor of Florida. He is also the son of one president and the younger brother of another president.
Signs he’s running: Jeb Bush has been positioning himself as the Republican Establishment’s pick for the nomination since at least 2012, when he began publicly lamenting the state of his party. While his mother famously said “we’ve had enough Bushes” in the White House, she’s reportedly come around, and his father and brother have been working to rehabilitate the family’s image ahead of his run. In December Bush announced he would “actively explore the possibility of running for President of the United States.” So far this has involved distancing himself from some unbecoming business relationships, hiring campaign staffers, launching a PAC, and making plans to speak at CPAC later this month.
Who: The two-term New Jersey governor, recent chairman of the Republican Governors Association, and yelling enthusiast.
Signs he’s running: From his recent weight loss to his proclamation in his 2013 victory speech that “the folks in Washington, D.C. should tune in their TVs right now, see how it’s done,” Chris Christie has made it very clear that he’s gearing up for a presidential run. In January he launched a PAC, addressed conservatives at the Iowa Freedom Summit, and embarked on a three-day trade mission to the U.K. in an effort to beef up his foreign-policy credentials. Many considered him the GOP’s 2016 front-runner prior to the Bridgegate scandal — which, ironically, was sparked by his effort to boost his presidential chances by winning reelection in his mostly Democratic state by a landslide.
Who: The former ophthalmologist, freshman senator from Kentucky, and son of former Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.
Signs he’s running: Rand Paul dubbed Chris Christie the “king of bacon,” got into a Reagan-off with Rick Perry, made a meme taunting “Hillary’s Losers,” wooed Rupert Murdoch at the Kentucky Derby, fought with Dick Cheney over whether he’s an isolationist, made a token Democrat friend, tried to court college kids, tried to court African-Americans, called for literally declaring war on ISIS, released an audio recording mocking Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, joked about his 2016 prospects in a Festivus tweet, and pushed to change a Kentucky law so he can run for the presidency and reelection to the Senate. Other than that, his plans for the future are unclear.
Who: After the 2012 election, the freshman senator from Florida was widely praised as the future of his party, culminating in a February 2013 Time magazine cover that dubbed him “The Republican Savior.” The bubble burst after he tied himself to the Senate’s bipartisan immigration-reform effort and eventually wound up abandoning his own bill.
Signs he’s running: Rubio released a book in January and scheduled signings in early primary states. He recently missed Senate votes to attend fund-raising events across the country, including a gathering of wealthy donors in California organized by the Koch brothers. In spring 2014, he declared he’s ready to be president and said that in accordance with Florida law, he’ll run for the Senate or the presidency in 2016, not both. “You know, I think by and large when you choose to do something as big as [running for president], you’ve really got to be focused on that and not have an exit strategy,” he said, making a subtle jab at Rand Paul.
Who: The tea-party darling and freshman senator from Texas. You may remember him from such profile-raising stunts as reading Green Eggs and Ham during a faux filibuster and instigating a futile government shutdown over Obamacare.
Signs he’s running: Cruz has been bulking up his foreign-policy portfolio, speaking at various events geared toward GOP donors, and spending a lot of time in early primary states (he’s tied with Rand Paul for the most visits over the past two years). He even dropped his Canadian dual citizenship to assure voters that he’s 100 percent American. “At this point it’s 90/10 he’s in,” one Cruz adviser told National Journal in September. “And honestly, 90 is lowballing it.”
Who: The Wisconsin governor, who’s won three statewide races in four years, including a 2012 recall election after he limited collective-bargaining rights for public employees.
Signs he’s running: Walker just launched a “527” tax-exempt committee to fund his national political activity, and delivered a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that won rave reviews. The governor said he’ll announce his decision next summer, but he’s already leased office space in Iowa so it’s not hard to guess how he’s leaning.
Who: The former Republican governor of Texas who just stepped down after 14 years in office. His unsuccessful 2012 bid is best remembered for his inability to recall the name of the third federal department he’d abolish if elected.
Signs he’s running: Perry spent the tail end of 2014 visiting early primary states, hosting dinners for potential campaign donors at the governor’s mansion, and subjecting himself to “day-long tutorial sessions with conservative scholars,” according to the Washington Post. He told the paper, “We are a substantially different, versed candidate.” (See: his new hipster glasses.) Thanks to a recent court decision, the criminal case against Perry will likely drag on into primary season, but he said that won’t affect his plan to make a decision by May or June. “We’re moving right along as we have intended to,” he said.
Who: The Louisiana governor best known on the national stage for delivering a sing-song GOP rebuttal to the 2009 State of the Union.
Signs he’s running: Days after the 2012 election, Jindal tried to spearhead the push for reforming the GOP by calling out Mitt Romney for “insulting voters,” and declaring Republicans need to “stop being the stupid party.” Yet, in recent weeks he’s declared that there are Muslim “no-go zones” in Europe, right after Fox News repeatedly apologized for the false claim. Jindal has been ramping up his fund-raising efforts and appearances before conservative groups and is also preparing himself physically: He reportedly put on 13 pounds in an effort to fight his resemblance to Kenneth the Page.
Who: The former Arkansas governor who launched a successful career as a conservative radio and TV host after finishing second in delegate count in the 2008 Republican presidential primaries.
Signs he’s running: Last year Huckabee formed a nonprofit advocacy group to begin organizing staff and money for his campaign, and in January he announced he was ending his weekly Fox News show to explore a presidential run (network policy bans active political candidates from being employed as on-air personalities). Huckabee said he “won’t make a decision about running until late in the spring of 2015.” In the meantime, he embarked on a nationwide book tour and got his name back in the headlines by criticizing gay marriage, “trashy” women who curse at work, and Beyoncé.
Who: The current governor of Ohio. He was elected in 2010 after serving in the House from 1983 to 2001 and hosting From the Heartland With John Kasich on Fox News from 2001 to 2007. He formed an exploratory committee to run for president in February 1999 but dropped out a few months later owing to poor fund-raising.
Signs he’s running: He recently launched a national tour to promote a federal balanced budget. He pitched himself as a moderate with a history of congressional compromise at the Republican Governors Association in November, but was attacked for taking federal money to expand Medicaid. On the other hand, he said something nice about Obamacare in October, so maybe he’s not running.
Who: The Long Island congressman sits on the House Intelligence and Homeland Security committees. He’s known for his many controversy-generating media appearances and his series of Muslim radicalization hearings.
Signs he’s running: Though he’s probably just pretending he may run, since 2012 King has spent more time in New Hampshire than any other potential candidate and has already started lashing out at other possible candidates. He called Ted Cruz a “nihilist,” and said, “I don’t want the field to be dominated by people like Rand Paul … Rand Paul is an isolationist. …This is an extremely dangerous world. We do not have the luxury of hiding. We cannot retreat within our borders. And I terribly resent his implication that the U.S. is somehow the cause of aggression around the world.”
Who: The former governor of New York. He publicly flirted with a presidential bid in 2008 and 2012, but has never actually run.
Signs he’s running: Though he has “virtually no shot,” as the Daily News put it, he told Fox News this month that he is “very seriously” considering a run for the presidency. He’s recently launched a super-PAC, visited New Hampshire and South Carolina, and met with at least one half of the Koch brothers.
Who: The former Pennsylvania senator won primaries and caucuses in 11 states in 2012.
Signs he’s running: Santorum told the Washington Post he’s taking another shot at the presidency, though he’s rarely mentioned as a 2016 contender. He said this has given him “a lot of latitude,” adding, “America loves an underdog. We’re definitely the underdog in this race.” He has a nationwide grassroots operation called Patriot Voices, and has been traveling to promote a new book on raising his daughter Bella, who has an often deadly genetic condition. Last month he lashed out at most of the top GOP presidential candidates, right after telling Bloomberg Politics that he plans to run as a uniter.
Who: The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive was the first female CEO of a Fortune 20 company. She was an adviser to John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, and in 2012 she ran for the U.S. Senate in California, but lost to incumbent Barbara Boxer.
Signs she’s running: Fiorina has been hiring staffers, talking with donors, making appearances in Iowa and New Hampshire, and taking jabs at Hillary Clinton. Last week she said it’s “looking more likely” that she’ll run. “Of course people don’t know me and they need to get to know me,” Fiorina told Boston Herald Radio. “Do we need to raise money? Yes. Do we need to raise as much money as Jeb Bush? No.”
Who: The three-term South Carolina senator is a close friend of Senator John McCain, and his frequent partner in critiquing the Obama administration’s foreign policy as insufficiently hawkish.
Signs he’s running: Last week Graham announced that he’s forming an exploratory committee to “test the waters” for a 2016 bid. He’s expected to focus on his foreign-policy platform, which as Salon somewhat jokingly notes, includes “invade Iraq because Saddam Hussein has WMDs; invade Iraq again to fight terrorists; send U.S. forces to fight in Syria; the president can secretly order the killing of American citizens; deny terrorism suspects their rights as American citizens because ’the homeland is the battlefield;’ and (my personal favorite) ’free speech is a great idea, but we’re in a war.’”
Dr. Ben Carson
Who: The retired pediatric neurosurgeon who is polling second among Republicans for the 2016 nomination, despite never having sought office before. He made a name for himself by comparing the U.S. to ancient Rome (both “destroyed themselves from within”) during a speech at last year’s National Prayer Breakfast attended by Obama. He went on to make numerous provocative remarks in appearances as a conservative commentator. He’s compared the U.S. government to Nazi Germany, called the Veterans Affairs scandal a “gift from God” for exposing what happens when there is too much bureaucracy between patients and health-care providers, and called Obamacare “the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.”
Signs he’s running: Carson switched his registration from independent to Republican, made trips to Iowa and Israel, and formed a federal PAC called USA First PAC. The super-PAC National Draft Ben Carson for President Committee, which has no affiliation with the doctor or his federal PAC, has already raised $11 million. He plans to make a formal announcement by May. “We’re making sure all the infrastructure is in place – personnel and rationale,” Carson told Fox News. “We’re putting all of that together.”
Who: The well-liked and uncontroversial governor of Indiana who served in the House from 2001 to 2013.
Signs he’s running: Many consider him the GOP’s dark-horse candidate, and Pence has said he’ll make a decision in the spring. He’s a tea-party favorite and has close ties to the Koch brothers. “Pence could bridge really every group — the social conservatives, the fiscal conservatives, the foreign policy conservatives,” Chris Chocola, president of the Club for Growth and a friend of Pence’s, told the Washington Post. “He’s not viewed as a fringe guy.”
Who: After four terms in the House, Ehrlich became the first Republican governor of Maryland in nearly 40 years. He was unseated by Martin O’Malley in 2006 and lost to him again in 2010.
Signs he’s running: According to the Daily Beast, he wants to have “a voice in the party,” and some have suggested he’d be running for vice-president. In December Ehrlich told CBS Baltimore that he’s considering a run after several well-received speeches. “It all started pretty organically. I got invited to go to New Hampshire this summer and from that, been back a couple more times,” Ehrlich said. “We don’t know,” he said of his presidential potential. “That’s what’s really interesting about it.”
Who: The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the George W. Bush administration.
Signs he’s running: While he’s struggling to be taken seriously as a candidate, he’s been spouting his hawkish views in key electoral states. His PAC and super-PAC, which promote candidates who are “determined to reverse the Obama policies of decline, retreat, and the mistrust of American exceptionalism,” according to his website, have raised more than $7 million from over 25,000 donors in the past year. He said in October, “I can truly say that I am thinking about 2016 only in terms of keeping foreign and defense policy at the top of the priority list in the national political debate. Policy is uppermost in my mind.”
Who: The former Alaska governor turned reality star, who already got closer to the White House than she ever should have.
Signs she’s running: In a move widely seen as a publicity stunt, Palin recently declared that she’s interested in running for president. “Yeah, I mean, of course, when you have a servant’s heart, when you know that there is opportunity to do all you can to put yourself forward in the name of offering service, anybody would be interested,” Palin told ABC News. She then delivered a speech at the Iowa Freedom Summit that conservative commentators described as “rambling,” “bizarre,” and “at times barely coherent.”
Who: Businessman, reality-show host, and world’s richest troll.
Signs he’s running: He’s been hinting that he might run for more than a year, and spoke at the Iowa Freedom Summit last month. “I’m the one person who can make this country great again, that’s all I know,” he told reporters after his speech. “Nobody else can.” Also, see above.
POTENTIAL CANDIDATES WHO ARE OUT OF THE RUNNING
Who: The Wisconsin congressman and 2012 GOP vice-presidential nominee.
Signs he isn’t running: While Ryan released a book, visited early primary states, and met with GOP donors, the presidential race is not his endgame (or at least, not yet — he’s only 45). On January 12, Ryan told NBC News that he’s decided not to run in 2016. “It is amazing the amount of encouragement I have gotten from people — from friends and supporters — but I feel like I am in a position to make a big difference where I am and I want to do that,” he said.
Who: You should know this one.
Signs he isn’t running: After repeatedly insisting that he’s through with campaigning, on January 9 Mitt Romney told donors he would explore a third presidential bid. While many welcomed the chance to reuse their jokes from the 2012 campaign, there wasn’t much enthusiasm among influential members of the Republican party. After a meeting with Jeb Bush (which sparked theories about some sort of deal), Romney dropped out of the race on January 30. It turns out Ann Romney was right when she said the whole family was “Done. Done. Done,” with presidential campaigns.
This post has been updated throughout.