2016 Candidates: Who Were They? | Sarah Stook

It’s been over a year since Donald Trump became the Republican candidate for the 2016 election, nearly a year since he was elected and nine months since he was sworn in as President in front of the US Capitol Building. It’s been a crazy year for him and for the world, as we watched the man no one thought would win, well, win.

We cannot forget the large field of Presidential candidates in the Republican race. Last election’s field was wider and more diverse than we have ever seen before. It was definitely an interesting race, from raging insults to fierce debates and sound bites that would dominate the news cycle for over a year. The men (and woman) may not have had as a rollercoaster ride as Trump, but none of them have had a calm year. The newly converted Trump fans, and the man himself, have been climbing over themselves to insult the old GOP (or RINOS as they say to the more moderate ones), which means we have a fractured party.

So who were they?


(2nd Place) Ted Cruz (R-TX), received 7,822,100 votes in the primaries.

Background: The son of a Cuban immigrant, the Hispanic Ted Cruz was probably the most conservative man in the race. Previously the Solicitor-General of the Lone Star State, Cruz was elected to the Senate in 2013. Hugely unpopular within the Senate (nobody, I mean nobody, likes him), Cruz is as conservative as they come, a man who had a big hand in the 2013 government shut down, even giving a 21 hour filibuster speech in order to use the budget to defund Obamacare.

Family: Wife Heidi (manager at Goldman-Sachs), and two young daughters- Caroline and Catherine.

During the Campaign: Ted Cruz was an early favourite, and his announcement of a candidacy came of little surprise. He’d only been a Senator for two years, but had made a huge name for himself in conservative circles. Cruz gained some early momentum, winning the Iowa Caucus, but soon lost his mojo when he came third in both New Hampshire and South Caroline, forcing him to re-look at his campaign against Trump. Whilst he still gained several states throughout the primaries, he lost that momentum as Trump got more and more votes, only winning three states on ‘Super Tuesday.’ The birther movement also sprung up again here, as Ted Cruz was born in Canada. Luckily for him, he was able to pull through by virtue of his mother being an American citizen. This did not affect him, but starting to lose did, and he pulled out on May 3rd after losing soundly in Indiana.

After the Campaign: Ted Cruz is still being Ted Cruz. At the Republican National Convention, he courted controversy by actively not supporting Trump, his reasoning being that the now candidate had attacked Cruz’s wife and father. Eventually, he supported him, even after the infamous tape, opining that anyone is better than Hillary Clinton. Still a Senator, he’s notable for his continued town hall debates with ideological opposite Bernie Sanders, and his pressure on the GOP to become a cohesive unit. Recently, he urged Trump not to continue with the Paris Accords, which is most likely because he gets a lot of campaign money from the energy industry. Right now, he’s mostly focused on the 2018 midterms. He’s a Republican in Texas, things are looking good. 2024? Likely.

(3rd Place) John Kasich, received 4,290,448 votes

Background: Governor of Ohio, Kasich served nine terms as a Congressman beforehand. Seen as fairly moderate by GOP standards, Kasich actually accepted expanded Medicaid in Ohio, something that many pounced upon. He also went against Republican standards when he voiced his belief that Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk who refused to issue same-sex marriage licenses, should have to issue them on the grounds she was not working in a religious place (though it was due to her faith).

Family: Divorced his first wife in 1980, though she campaigned for him. His current marriage is to Karen, and they have twin daughters Emma and Reese.

During the Campaign: A Washington operator, Kasich pushed himself as the experienced candidate, against outsiders such as Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson. He also acted as a man above the fray, portraying himself as a man who was above petty squabbles and who would not sink to the level other candidates had in their behaviour. This stopped as he stepped up the attacks on Trump, especially on the latter’s immigration plan, which he believed to be cruel and unrealistic. Despite only winning one state- Ohio- he clung on til the bitter end, finishing May 4th, even though it was clear at that point that Trump could not be stopped.

After the Campaign: Whilst most of the candidates eventually supported Trump, out of faith or just necessity, Kasich point-blank refused to, and instead voted for 2008 candidate John McCain. Kasich himself received a vote from a faithless elector. After Trump won, the two met again, but Kasich still refused to support him. Since then, we haven’t heard much, but from what we have heard, he seems pretty discontent with the state of the party, and has even hinted at no longer believing in it.


(4th Place) Marco Rubio (R-FL), received 3,515,576 votes

Background: Born in Florida to Cuban émigrés, who became citizens after their son’s birth. He became a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2000 for eight years before going onto starting his own law firm and becoming a professor for a short time. In 2010, he was elected to the Senate as the Junior Senator. There, he gained a reputation as one of the ‘Gang of Eight,’ a bipartisan group who pushed for immigration reform.

Family: Married to Jeanette, a former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader. They have four children- two daughters, Amanda and Daniella, and two sons, Dominick and Anthony.

During the Campaign: Young and charismatic, Rubio picked up early support for his oratory skills and deeply conservative views. He even managed to gain the endorsement of hugely popular South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley. His voting record within the Senate came under attack, but his strong stance on foreign policy in the wake of several high-profile terrorist attacks allowed him a boost before the primaries. Unfortunately for him, he gained a derogatory nickname from Donald Trump-‘Little Marco.’ He ended up winning four primaries, including Puerto Rico. Eventually, after losing his home state, he bowed out on March 15th.

After the Campaign: Rubio supported Trump, though this seemed to be out of necessity due to their mutual rivalry and Rubio’s view that Trump wasn’t a proper conservative. In the Senate, he hasn’t been too vocal, but has appeared in the media enough. His two biggest concerns- immigration and foreign policy- have continued to appear on his agenda, and he has been fighting to work things out in Syria, especially after the gas attacks. Interestingly, he supported Trump regarding the end of DACA, but he seems to have zigzagged on the issue. 2024 seems likely.


(5th Place) Dr. Ben Carson, received 857, 039 votes

Background: Before going into politics, Dr. Carson was a world-renowned neurosurgeon. There is no doubt he is a brilliant mind, and in 1987, he became the only surgeon to separate conjoined twins joined together at the head. This led to many accolades, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. He was even portrayed in a film about his life by Cuba Gooding Jr.

Family: He is married to his college sweetheart, Candy, and they have three sons- Rhoeyce, Benjamin Jr and Murray).

During the Campaign: Carson courted controversy for his remarks on homosexuality (he said that men arrived at prison straight and left gay) and abortion (it is akin to slavery in his eyes), but enjoyed a surge in the polls as a very conservative man, a gifted surgeon and as a Washington outsider. Unfortunately, he declined in the polls when his views on foreign policy in such a volatile time were called into question, with Carson admitting he doesn’t know much. Coupled with issues from his past, Carson’s numbers took a nosedive and he bowed out on March 2nd, the day after Super Tuesday.

After the Campaign: Carson almost immediately endorsed Trump, and was on his list as a VP pick. When Trump won, he joined the transition team as Vice Chairman, but rejected being given a Cabinet role due to his lack of political experience. Eventually, he was nominated to the position of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Since then, we’ve heard bits from him, though he has not been the most vocal of the Trump team. Carson has mainly focused on his job and there don’t seem to be any problems.


(6th Place): Jeb Bush, received 286,694 votes

Background: The son of 41 and the brother of 43, Bush belongs to a political dynasty. It is widely believed that it was him, not George W, that Bush 41 had high hopes for. He ran for Governor of Florida the same year that his brother ran for Governor of Texas, but failed. In 1998, however, he managed to succeed and served two terms.

Family: Married to Mexican Columba, whom he met on an exchange programme. He has three children- Noelle, Jeb Bush Jr and George Prescott, who is believed to be a rising star in the party.

During the Campaign: Many, at the beginning, thought that Bush would win. The establishment candidate and close relative of two former Presidents, it almost seemed inevitable that he would win. Unfortunately, ‘Low Energy Jeb’ lacked the charisma, power and drive to succeed, failing against newer candidates. He and Trump had a particularly antagonistic relationship, probably the most so out of all of the candidates, and it got extremely personal at times. He did poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire, and despite his best efforts, came 4th in South Carolina. On February 20th he knew his time was up and he bowed out.

After the Campaign: Like some others, Bush actively refused to endorse Trump, instead supporting Ted Cruz. This was the same with his father and brother, his brother not even voting for Trump. Since then, Bush has slammed Trump at every turn, especially regarding his response to the devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico. He also seems to become a bit of a meme, with Jeb Surge a popular internet joke. Also, who can forget please clap?


(7th Place) Dr. Rand Paul (R-KY), received 66,788 votes.

Background: Father of the beloved libertarian grouch/Senator Ron Paul, Dr. Paul continued his work in the Senate, and the two serve together. A massive Constitutional conservative, Paul is a good friend of the Tea Party and hates nothing more than big government. He has voted time and time again for tax cuts, a reduction in federal spending and a lack of gun control, and is an outspoken critic of the Neocon movement.

Family: Married to Kelley, known for her excellent campaign skills and for being his secret weapon. They have three sons- Duncan, William and Robert. William has been on the wrong side of the law a few times, having been arrested for assaulting a flight attendant and DUI.

During the Campaign: Within a day of announcing his run, Paul received $1 million in donations. Surprisingly, we did not hear a lot from Paul during the campaign. Compared to his rival candidates, he took a low media profile and didn’t do many huge events, preferring low-key appearances in key areas. Whilst hopes were high initially, his lack of media appearances, his refusal to go to undercard debates and the drop in donations meant he went quickly on the decline. After placing 5th in Iowa, he suspended his campaign on February 3rd.

After the Campaign: Rand Paul has never been a quiet man in the Senate, and he continues to be a notable name in the House. In regards to foreign policy, he has been vocal against any intervention in Syria. Most notably, however, has been his role in healthcare. A huge opponent of Obamacare, Paul introduced a replacement bill. Amongst others, such as John McCain, he opposed the Graham-Cassidy Bill, calling it ‘Obamacare Lite,’ causing friction with the President.


(8th Place) Chris Christie, received 57, 637 votes

Background: Christie burst onto the national spotlight for his response to the Hurricane Sandy disaster, receiving praise for his role as Governor of New Jersey. That goodwill evaporated, however, with ‘Bridgegate.’ Christie had two lanes leading to the George Washington Bridge closed, for political reasons still unknown. Many aides were fired, or quit, though Christie managed to stay on. Two of his aides were imprisoned for their role. Christie survived, albeit on thin ice.

Family: Married to Mary Pat, an investment banker. They have four children- Patrick, Andrew, Bridget and Sarah.

During the Campaign: Christie, even from the start, failed to gain momentum. Even as a big name, many doubted his chances and he nearly didn’t even manage to get on the first debate. During that debate, his poll numbers sunk even lower due to his disastrous performance. He placed 10th in Iowa, and did slightly better with 6th in New Hampshire. On February 10th, he stepped down.

After the Campaign: Not long after, Christie endorsed Trump in a video that was widely compared to a hostage situation. This surprised many, who believed it to be simply a case of opportunism, with many figures such as Kasich and Nikki Haley voicing their confusion. He was also mocked by voters. Christie was picked as a member of a possible transition team, but was dropped after his unpopularity really came into play. He was also strongly considered for VP, but Trump left him hanging and went after Pence instead. Now, he is in a lot of trouble- his approval ratings of 15% are extremely dismal, but he’ll win in the end, as he plans to go into the private sector after finishing his term as governor.


(9th Place) Mike Huckabee, received 51,540 votes

Background: Known as a Bible-bashing evangelical, Huckabee was renowned for being extremely conservative, something that probably cost him votes. Has Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, before he was Governor, a role previously held by Bill Clinton. Huckabee also ran in 2008, coming a very impressive second to John McCain.

Family: Married to Janet. They have three children- David, John and Sarah. Sarah is currently White House Press Secretary.

During the Campaign: Let’s just say Huckabee didn’t have another 2008. We didn’t see much of his campaign, and he finished Iowa in 9th place. He suspended his campaign on February 1st.

After the Campaign: Apart from his pretty hilarious Twitter, Huckabee hasn’t been up to much these days.  In fact, it seems that daughter Sarah is a lot more prominent these days due to her role in the White House. Huckabee was an early supporter of Trump, endorsing him soon after his race ended, and seems to be a vocal supporter of his on the media circuit. He will be starting a new programme on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and has hinted he plans to run for Governor of Florida after current Governor Rick Scott is forced to resign due to term limits.


(10th Place) Carly Fiorina, received 40,666 votes

Background: Like Carson, Fiorina is not from a hugely political background, though she does have more experience than him. Formerly the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, Fiorina first joined politics as an advisor to John McCain’s campaign. She fought against incumbent Barbara Boxer in the 2010 Californian Senate election, but lost to her.

Family: Her first marriage to Todd Barltem ended in 1984. She subsequently married Frank Fiorina in 1985. She has one living stepdaughter, Traci, and the other, Lori Ann died in 2009 at only 35.

During the Campaign: The only female in the wide sea of GOP candidates, Fiorina gained initial excitement. After the first debate, she gained six points, and gained huge praise for her strong performance in the second debate. Unfortunately, her low place in the Iowa caucus meant she could not participate in the top tier ABC debate. On February 10th, after doing poorly in New Hampshire, she suspended her campaign. This was not the end for her, however. On April 27th, Cruz announced Fiorina would be his running mate should he succeed with the nomination, an announcement mocked for that awkward hand holding. Soon after, Cruz lost in Indiana and Fiorina’s hopes were dashed.

After the Campaign: Fiorina has laid low in the past year, mainly sticking with private sector interviews and events. Rumours swirled of her getting a Cabinet position, but nothing came of it. Given her dashed ambitions, it’s looking like Fiorina is going to stay in the private sector.


(11th Place)  Jim Gilmore, received 18,369 votes

Background: The former Attorney-General and Governor of Virginia, Gilmore also served a very short term as Chair of the RNC. Gilmore was notable for his many trips abroad to establish trade links, the first of which was to Germany. He also went to the UK in 2001. Unusually for a modern Republican, he is known for his activism on African-American rights, with his funding of historically black colleges and his establishment of Virginia’s MLK Day points in his favour. He ran in 2008, but bowed out early due to low funding. He also lost the Senate in 2008 by a landslide to his Democrat opposite.

Family: He married Roxanne in 1977, and their two sons are Ashton and Jay.

During the Campaign: Gilmore was doomed from the start. Little known and with little funding, he struggled against the big names and candidates who could raise a penny. He was the lowest polling candidate in the race, often struggling to even get 1%. This got so bad he was only able to go to two of the undercard debates, meaning he was definitely last. He did very badly in Iowa and New Hampshire- only receiving 12 and 133 votes respectively. He bowed out on February 12th.

After the Campaign: Even Google news comes up with nothing for him apart from the odd media appearance. His Twitter is just retweets of Republican events and news. Apart from a few media appearances, it’s all quiet on the Gilmore front.


(12th Place) Rick Santorum, received 16,672 votes.

Background: Probably the most conservative man in contemporary politics, Santorum is a name. A devout Catholic with a very large family, Santorum’s politics is solely defined on his deep faith. More than just a simple GOP social conservative, Santorum authored a bill to encourage the teaching of intelligent design, likened Obamacare to Apartheid, has compared homosexuality to a number of bad things (he’s really anti-LGBT) and believes that artificial contraceptives should not be available over the counter. On that last part, he doesn’t believe that Americans have a right to privacy. Yep, he’s one of those. He ran in 2012 but pulled out after his youngest child’s hospitalisation.

Background: Married nurse Karen in 1990. He has eight children, but only seven are living as his son Gabriel tragically died soon after birth in 1996. His youngest daughter, born in 2008, has a rare genetic disorder and Santorum has paid a lot of money for her care.

During the Campaign: Like Gilmore, Santorum lacked momentum, even if he had more of a name. Even months into his campaign, he still hadn’t raised his profile and was continually hovering at around 1% in the polls. He came second to last in Iowa, and had the good sense to suspend his campaign on February 3rd.

After the Campaign: No longer an elected official, Santorum is doing his rounds on the media circuit, endorsing conservative candidates and speaking out against issues like video games (yeah, weird).  In 2017, he became a political commentator for CNN (yes, that CNN). Time will tell if he runs again, but he’s definitely lost his spark so I’d say unlikely.


2016 was a fascinating year for candidates, and I doubt it’ll be more interesting again, though with the current state of politics no one would be surprised. Assuming Trump will run in 2020 (all signs point to yes, and the incumbent nearly always runs again in recent years); it’ll be another seven years before Republicans flock to the polls again. With people already pinning their hopes on candidates (Nikki Haley 2024 over here), let’s just see what the 2016 candidates have in store first. Not all of them are quite finished yet…

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