On the 20th January 2017 President Barack Obama will leave the White House for the last time and the free world will have a new leader. After 8 long years in office, most of it plagued by congressional gridlock, the first black president will leave the most powerful office in the world somewhat frustrated with his lack of progress. However, whilst it is yet uncertain how history will judge his presidency, one thing is clear: someone will be replacing him. But just who are the contenders for president?
New York born and bred, the billionaire property tycoon would be the first person in American history to take the White House without having previously held public office or a senior rank in the military. Very much the Republican anti-establishment candidate, he has campaigned under the banner “Make America Great Again” and has run a highly controversial campaign. Some of his more contentious comments and ideas have included his proposal to build a wall the length of the Mexico-American border and a call to ban all Muslims entering the country “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”
Either way, he continues to have a very strong raw appeal to those disillusioned with Washington politics and has consistently dominated national polls with the most recent putting him 25% ahead of everyone else. Despite the Iowa setback, he continues to dominate New Hampshire as well as nationally leaving many in the media and the Republican establishment convinced that the party nomination is Trump’s to lose.
Policy Concerns: ‘Rebuilding’ the military, healthcare reform, stopping immigration, banning Muslims from entering the country.
Touted as the only person with any chance of stopping Trump, like his presidential rival, the ultra-conservative Texas Senator is a political outsider and also has a reputation for controversy.
The Tea Party hardliner rose to prominence in 2012 with his 21 hour long speech against Obamacare and his highly partisan style has gained him the nickname “the most hated man in Washington.” Indeed his strong ideological agenda had done him no favours with the established Republican political elite. Despite this, his consistent conservative message has struck accord with both traditional conservatives as well as the evangelical Christian right. In particular, his pledge to end “the war on faith” as well as his proposal to defund Planned Parenthood has given evangelical Republicans a genuine voice and consequently has guaranteed a strong supporter base.
Despite a strong victory in Iowa, this was a deeply Christian state and one Cruz needed to win to have any chance of winning the nomination. A Trump slip up would no doubt leave Cruz in pole position for the Republican nomination but this appears to be somewhat unlikely, leaving him he very much in second place for the time being.
Policy Concerns: Second amendment rights, rolling back Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, introducing a 10% flat tax
The Cuban-American and Florida Senator seemed to have all the key ingredients necessary in order for the Republicans to take back the presidency, but it hasn’t quite happened.
At a time when huge democratic shifts are hugely effecting the American electorate largely in favour of the Democrats, the party more than ever needs a candidate capable of uniting every part of the political spectrum. Rubio would seem to fit the bill with his youth, Hispanic heritage, excellent speaking skills and senate experience.
However despite being what many have described as an ideal candidate, he has struggled to assert himself over the much louder and controversial Trump and Cruz. Despite this, he was seen by many as the winner in Iowa, performing better than expected and trailing Trump by just one point.
Indeed the Rubio campaign is one built to last. With a strong backroom team of Romney campaign veterans as well as established Republican elites, many in the party remain hopeful that his coherent conservative message will ultimately be enough to beat the populist frontrunners when it comes to the convention.
Policy Concerns: Ending Iran nuclear deal, modernisation of higher education, increased military funding.
Arguably the most experienced candidate for the job, Hilary Clinton has held a variety of Washington jobs with the notable exception of President. The former first lady served as a New York Senator for 8 years before being appointed by Obama as Secretary of State in 2009 and has since gone on to establish herself as major player in the Democratic Party.
In fact she has commanded a strong lead right from the beginning of the race and is seen as a safe bet by many in the party and country. Her focus on jobs, equal pay, criminal justice reform and expanding healthcare has resonated strongly with the American middle class and has also helped to enthuse the ever so crucial African-American vote.
However in the last few months she has witnessed a sharp decline in her supporter base, conceding most of it to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. The Iowa result only helped to end her dream of a relatively trouble free and easy route to the nomination winning by just 0.2% of the vote. Like Marco Rubio, Hilary Clinton as the establishment candidate is well supported and built to last and whilst Sanders is enjoying increasing popularity, many would still place their bets on another Clinton nominee.
Policy Concerns: Equal pay, criminal justice reform, expanding healthcare
Unlike his fellow New Yorker Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders is a self-described democratic socialist and is currently the junior Vermont Senator. Whilst he caucuses with the Democrats, he is actually an independent and the longest serving in congressional history.
He is very much considered as the anti-establishment candidate of the left and his strong opinions on education reform, wealth inequality and Wall Street has seen his popularity skyrocket in recent weeks. At the launch of his campaign he was given no chance but the most recent poll puts him 27% ahead of Clinton in New Hampshire, a fact unthinkable just a few months ago.
His campaign has resonated particularly well with both younger voters, securing over 80% of their vote in Iowa alone, and with what Sanders describes as “the shrinking middle class.” Whether or not he can maintain his support nationwide against a heavily financed and well organised Clinton campaign is questionable but his entry into the process has undoubtedly helped to inspire a generation of younger voters.
Policy Concerns: Wealth inequality, college education funding, campaign finance reform