The Republican Party's field for the 2016 presidential race is wide open, just as it was in 2008 and 2012. Here are some potential candidates, from Jeb Bush to Chris Christie and Scott Walker, and a look at what they would bring to the contest. Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Marco Rubio have formally joined the race.
Rand Paul launched his Republican presidential bid on April 7, 2015, with a distinctly anti-Washington message, declaring "We have come to take our country back” as he took on special interests, promised a government that would be restrained by the Constitution – and criticized his own party. The first-term Kentucky senator and tea party favorite said he worries that opportunity and hope are slipping away for the next generation of Americans, asked what kind of country the generation after that would see, and added, “It seems to me that both parties and the entire political system are to blame." Many of those at the rally said they had supported the presidential campaigns of Paul’s father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul; the son’s launch reflected both his appeals to them and the broader pool of voters he must reach for his bid for the Republican nomination to be more successful. Above, Rand Paul speaks during the event at the Galt House Hotel in Louisville, Ky. on April 7, 2015.
The conservative Texas senator became the first Republican or Democrat to declare his candidacy for the 2016 presidential election on March 23, 2015 – kicking the presidential race into gear after months of potential candidates forming political action committees and visiting early voting states. "God's blessing has been on America from the very beginning of this nation, and I believe that God isn't done with Americans," Ted Cruz said as he began his campaign at the Christian school Liberty University, above, in Lynchburg, Va. “I believe in you. I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America. And that is that is why, today, I am announcing that I am running for president of the United States of America." Cruz, who was elected to the Senate in 2012, is a tea party favorite who grabbed headlines as he led Republicans through the 2013 government shutdown in an unsuccessful attempt to defund President Barack Obama's health care law. The month before, in September 2013, he famously delivered a 21-hour speech urging Congress to cut off money for the Affordable Care Act – which included a rendition of Dr. Seuss' "Green Eggs and Ham." Cruz remains one of the most vocal opponents of Obama’s health care overhaul.
Getting in the presidential race at Miami's Freedom Tower on April 13, 2015, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio presented the election as “a generational choice about what kind of country we will be.” The 43-year-old presented a contrast with two political heavyweights he took a jab at: Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, 67, and Republican Jeb Bush, 62, the former Florida governor who was once his mentor. “While our people and economy are pushing the boundaries of the 21st century, too many of our leaders and their ideas are stuck in the 20th century,” Rubio said in Miami, above. A Cuban-American who was raised by working-class parents, Rubio said the election is a choice between the haves and have-nots — and told his top donors that young Americans face unequal opportunities, while many families feel the American Dream is slipping away. The remarks reflect his campaign’s central message — that the Republican Party cares about all voters. Rubio came into prominence in the tea party wave of 2010, when he was elected to the Senate. He is a foreign policy hard-liner, and a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act.
The former Florida governor will likely try to become the third member of his family to be elected president. Jeb Bush said in mid-December that he would actively explore a campaign, and in early January he moved further in that direction as he announced the formation of the Right to Rise PAC. Bush could likely draw on support from the party establishment and big-money donors, but wooing conservative activists will be harder. Bush, who made his mark as the Sunshine State's governor by overhauling its schools, has been one of the most vocal supporters of the Common Core education standards. But he sought common ground with conservative Common Core critics in a major speech Nov. 20, 2014, saying the state benchmarks should be "the new minimum" for the country's classrooms. "For those states choosing a path other than Common Core, I say this: Aim even higher, be bolder, raise standards and ask more of our students and the system," Bush said. Above, he speaks in San Francisco on Jan. 23, 2015.
Chris Christie's 2014 was dominated by fallout from the "Bridgegate" scandal, but he also traveled the country and stored political chits as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. The two-term New Jersey governor's brash, say-it-like-it-is persona has made him a political celebrity. Now, having relinquished his position as chairman of the RGA, Christie will seek similar fundraising success for a possible presidential run. Like many of the would-be candidates, he has formed a political action committee – called Leadership Matters for America. Above, the New Jersey governor speaks during the Freedom Summit in Des Moines on Jan. 24, 2015.
The former three-term New York governor said in January that he is considering a 2016 presidential run because the country can’t risk electing another Democratic president. George Pataki certainly sounded like he was ready to get in the race during a Jan. 11-12 trip to New Hampshire, above, where he held more two dozen events. He criticized Obama’s executive actions on immigration protecting as many as 4 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and said he supported House Republicans’ efforts to dismantle the president’s policy. "We've seen an explosion in government power from Washington and the government is far too big, far too powerful, far too expensive and far too intrusive, and the need to reform Washington dramatically and reduce its power and influence has never been greater," Pataki said. Pataki, who left office in 2007, has flirted with a White House bid twice before.
The former Hewlett-Packard CEO introduced herself to Iowa’s Republican voters at the Iowa Freedom Summit – and took aim at the Democratic favorite, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Carly Fiorina cast her as a disappointment on the world stage who didn’t defuse serious foreign policy threats, while pointing to her own experience dealing with foreign dignitaries and dangers. Fiorina, who lost an expensive bid for a Senate seat in California in 2010, presented herself as a political outsider. “Our government must be fundamentally reformed. The system has to be changed. Our politics can no longer tinker on the edges,” she said. Above, Fiorina waves after speaking at the event in Des Moines on Jan. 24, 2015. Fiorina has kept up her criticism of Clinton since then, on subjects including foreign governments' donations to the Clinton Foundation. After Clinton addressed her use of a private email account for official business while secretary of state on March 10, Fiorina tweeted that Clinton cannot be trusted.
The longtime Texas governor's 2012 presidential campaign turned out disastrously, but he is seriously considering running again in 2016. Rick Perry has said he could announce his decision by May or June. Above, Perry talks about the costs of illegal immigration in Texas during a news conference at the Republican Governors Association conference in Boca Raton, Fla., on Nov. 19, 2014.
The South Carolina senator became the latest prospective candidate to jump into the 2016 fray on Jan. 29, 2015, when he said he has set up a committee, Security Through Strength, to explore a presidential bid. Lindsey Graham presented a pragmatic message, saying, “I mean, are we going to be a party that embraces the fact that Democrats exist and you can get no big deal done without their buy-in?" Some of Graham’s bipartisan moves, such as helping to write a comprehensive immigration reform bill, are viewed negatively by some conservatives. But Graham defended his conservative bona fides, pointing out repeatedly that he won his party’s nomination for the Senate by 41 points. "I represent a form of conservatism that's acceptable in the reddest of red states," he said. "I am conservative by any rational definition." Above, Graham on Capitol Hill in Washington on Jan. 28.
Bobby Jindal is completing his second term as Louisiana's governor and cannot run for another one because of term limits. But he could make a bid for president. Jindal suggested on Nov. 19, 2014 -- before President Barack Obama unveiled his unilateral immigration reform plans -- that a government shutdown should be on the table. Jindal, who once supported the Common Core as a way to improve student preparation for college and careers, has emerged as a prominent critic of the education standards in 2014. He sued the U.S. Department of Education in August, accusing federal education officials of manipulating $4.3 billion in federal grants and policy waivers to illegally pressure states to adopt Common Core standards and tests. Above, Jindal talks about Republicans' recent gains and the party's future at the Republican Governors Association conference in Boca Raton, Fla., on Nov. 19, 2014.
You recognize the politician on the left -- but maybe not the one gesturing on the right. While New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie appeared with Ohio Gov. John Kasich at the final stop of Kasich's statewide Ohio Works bus tour on Nov. 1, 2014, in Columbus, they'll likely be facing off in the presidential race in 2016. Kasich trounced Democrat Ed FitzGerald in his re-election triumph in November, winning by more than 30 points -- the second-largest gubernatorial victory margin in modern Ohio history. And he comes from an always-important swing state.
Wisconsin's governor, who was re-elected to a second term in November, says he is actively considering whether to get into the presidential race, but he hasn’t decided yet whether he feels the call to run. Scott Walker has been elected governor three times in four years -- including in 2012, when he became the first governor to defeat a recall in the U.S. One key to his presidential aspirations: whether he can drum up the level of conservative support on a national level that he has in Wisconsin, where exit polls showed he won the votes of 96 percent of Republicans in his re-election victory. Above, Walker speaks at his campaign party in West Allis, Wis., on Nov. 4, 2014.
The retired brain surgeon is the least well-known of the potential candidates, but an hourlong documentary featuring him that aired in more than two dozen states may have helped improve Ben Carson's name recognition. He placed second in the presidential straw poll at September's Values Voter Summit, which brings together prominent social conservatives. Above, Carson, who is a professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, speaks in National Harbor, Md. on March 8, 2014.
Indiana's governor is considering a 2016 White House bid and -- like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas -- he said he was considering suing the president over his immigration plan. "If he takes the action he takes tonight, I think frankly that it should be immediately challenged in court and we should seek an immediate stay," Mike Pence told the AP before the plan was announced on Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014. Above, Pence delivers his State of the State address in Indianapolis on Jan. 14, 2014.
Seven years after he won the Iowa caucuses during the 2008 campaign, the former Arkansas governor is positioning himself for another presidential campaign. Mike Huckabee left his Fox News show to consider whether to run, and is on a 14-state bus tour to promote his book “God, Guns, Grits and Gravy." "We don't need to spend the next two years beating each other up in the conservative tent. We need to tell America what's right with this country,” the social conservative said at the Iowa Freedom Summit in Des Moines, above, on Jan. 24, 2015.