The 2016 Presidential race seems to get more crowded every day. Sixteen candidates have already officially entered, while at least eight others are eyeing the White House. But how many of these candidates actually have relevant experience?
With so many candidates vying for your vote, keeping your politicians straight can be a headache. That’s why InsideGov ranked all of the 2016 Presidential Candidates by experience. To create our metric we focused on four distinct factors (ordered by most weight to least weight):
- Years of elective government experience
- Diversity of government positions held
- Political significance of each position (ex: governors trump mayors, experience in the Senate trumps experience in the House)
- Other executive management or military leadership experience
*Note on methodology: points are allocated based on positive contributions to overall experience. So the higher the score the better.
This list is by no means definitive, but should give a good sense of which candidates have the strongest resumes.
Without further ado, here are the 2016 presidential candidates ranked from least to most experience:
Stein may have an impressive career in medicine, but there’s no getting around the fact the she’s never held elective office or had management experience. As the only Green Party candidate, she has an uphill battle to convince voters her ideas matter.
Carson has never held elective office, but he does have management experience as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Without any government experience, though, Carson’s overall score remains low.
Donald Trump may have the most presidential hair, but he scores low in terms of elected government experience. In fact, he has none. Where he does score high is management experience, having been CEO of the Trump Organization for 40 years.
Like Trump, Fiorina brings a wealth of business leadership to the table; she was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard for six years and is currently the president of Lucent. What she lacks is any elective office experience.
Cruz was the first person to officially announce his bid for presidency. But while he may be eager to get his campaign moving, he scores low in just about every category, with only two years of elective experience as a senator and no other management experience.
Paul started his professional career as an opthalmologist, but transitioned into politics in 2010, when he successfully ran for senator in Kentucky. While Paul shares many of his father’s libertarian views, he lacks his many years of government experience.
Bridge-related scandals notwithstanding, the five-year governor of New Jersey scores high in political significance. But Christie’s lack of other government positions or management experience keeps his score low.
Before entering politics, Webb served as company commander for the Marine Corps in Vietnam and as Secretary of the Navy. He then went on to serve as a Virginia senator for six years.
Libertarian Gary Johnson scores well in management experience and political influence; he served as governor of New Mexico for six years. But he lacks years of elective experience and has only held one type of political office.
As the Democratic frontrunner and former first-lady, Clinton is perhaps the most recognized name on this list. While her term as Secretary of State gives her a high score in political influence, she actually lacks substantial elective experience. Clinton served as a senator for just eight years and has no other management experience.
Jindal is best known as the highly conservative governor of Louisiana—a position he’s held since 2007. But he actually started his political career as a congressman. Before that, Jindal gained management experience as the president of the University of Louisiana System.
In most families, serving as governor of Florida for eight years would be a crowning achievement: not so for the Bushes. As the son and younger brother of two US Presidents, Jeb certainly has a long shadow to escape. While he scores well in political influence and management experience—he served as CEO of the Codina group—Jeb falls short in terms of years of elective experience.
Despite being one of the youngest candidates on this list, the 43-year-old Senator from Florida has actually held a surprising 15 years of elective experience. Rubio has served as a senator, congressman, and majority leader in the Florida State House of Representatives. Is 2016 Rubio’s year to shine?
Santorum lost his 2012 presidential bid to Mitt Romney, but he’s back for round two in 2016. The Pennsylvania senator scores moderately well across the board in terms of years of elective experience, number of positions held, and political influence. The challenge will be rising above his failed campaign in 2012.
In his 14 years of elective office, Huckabee has served as governor and lieutenant governor of Arkansas. The former pastor was also founder of a 24-hour television station in Arkansas. But a failed presidential bid in 2008 and lack of mainstream appeal remain significant hurdles for Huckabee.
Walker’s tenure as Wisconsin governor was almost cut short in 2012, when he narrowly won a recall election. His victory in the recall vote bolstered his position in the GOP. Walker also scores well in elective experience (22 years) and political influence.
Any challenger to Hillary Clinton better have a strong resume, and with 23 years of elective experience, O’Malley doesn’t fall short. Before his eight-year stint as governor of Maryland, O’Malley served as the mayor of Baltimore City from 1999-2007.
Graham is one of the few candidates to score moderately well in every category. In his 22 years of government experience, Graham has served as both a senator and congressman from South Carolina. Moreover, Graham gained experience as a colonel in the US Air Force. Where he stumbles is standing out in any one particular category.
Chafee has served as governor of Rhode Island, senator, and mayor of Warwick, accumulating 24 years of government experience along the way. His main challenge is gaining enough momentum to challenge the Clinton campaign.
Pataki’s most notable political experience comes from his 12-year tenure as governor of New York. Outside of his governorship, he’s held positions as a State Senator and New York State Assembly Member, bringing his total elective experience to 25 years. Remarkably, five New York governors have gone on to win the US Presidency, a trend Pataki hopes to continue.
In his 26 years of elective experience, Kasich has served as a state senator and congressman and is currently the governor of Ohio. He was also the management director at Lehman Brothers. Kasich may not be a household name yet, but his secret weapon is being governor of one of the most influential swing states.
At 73 years-old, Sanders is the oldest candidate on this list. Unsurprisingly, he’s also had one of the longest political careers. In his time as senator, congressman, and mayor of Burlington, Sanders has gained an impressive 34 years of elective experience. With his bid for presidency, he’s determined to show that he’s still got fuel left in the tank.
After an embarrassing gaffe during his failed 2012 presidential run, Perry’s image suffered. But the former Governor of Texas still boasts a strong resume when it comes to political governance. Perry scores well with elective experience (30 years), number of government positions, and political influence.
Biden leads the pack in two categories: years of elective experience and political influence. He’s held government positions for an incredible 45 years and has direct experience in the White House, serving as vice president under President Obama. Despite his lengthy political career, Biden has only occupied two different government positions—vice president and senator. Nevertheless, by our numbers, the current Veep takes first place.
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