It seems like just yesterday that the US was in the midst of the wild and unpredictable 2016 presidential election cycle.
The fight featured some of the biggest names in American politics as well as a handful of outsiders – one of whom would end up becoming president in a stunning upset.
Both of America’s most recent political dynasties – the Clintons and the Bushes – were represented, as were some of the nation’s most prominent governors and senators.
More than 15 months after ballots were cast in November 2016, here’s what that cast of characters is up to today.
Rick Perry, who sought the Republican presidential bid in 2012, made another try for the party’s nomination in the 2016 cycle. But he became the first candidate to drop out of the race, ending his campaign in September 2015.
Now, the former Texas governor is President Donald Trump’s energy secretary.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was near the top in early Republican primary polling. But his campaign would not last long – he dropped out soon after Perry in September 2015.
Walker remains Wisconsin governor roughly two and a half years later, and he’s running for reelection in 2018.
Former Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia made a brief bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, but his campaign never gained much traction. He dropped out of the race after appearing in an October 2015 primary debate.
Webb has maintained a low profile since ending his campaign, though he has criticised the Democratic Party for moving “very far to the left” and, though he has not admitted it, has certainly made it sound as if he voted for Trump over 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
Former Rhode Island governor and senator Lincoln Chafee – a one-time Republican – also led a short-lived bid for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. He ended his campaign just days after Webb called it quits.
Earlier this month, it was reported that Chafee is considering another bid for Rhode Island governor, seeking to challenge incumbent Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo. Chafee has also been highly critical of the Clinton campaign.
Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was an early favourite for the party’s 2016 presidential nomination in the years leading up to the campaign. But once people began jumping into the race, Jindal quickly fell behind, never picking up much steam. He ended his campaign in December 2015.
Jindal, still in his 40s, has maintained a very low profile since leaving the presidential race and the Louisiana governor’s mansion. Recently, however, his name has started to pop back up again. He authored a pair of Wall Street Journal op-eds in defence of Trump and Trump’s voters, and some have speculated that Jindal, currently on the speaking circuit, wants to jump back into politics.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina led a brief presidential campaign that did not gain much traction, though Graham was able to garner plenty of attention to his bid via his feuds with Trump. He ended his campaign in December 2015.
Graham remains one of the most prominent members of the Senate, finding himself at the forefront of issues such as immigration, healthcare, and national security. He’s also one of the most outspoken members of Congress. Since Trump’s election, the two men have repaired their relationship and Graham now finds himself as one of the president’s closest confidants.
Former Republican New York Gov. George Pataki made a bid for the presidency in 2016, but received little attention. He ended his campaign just before New Year’s Eve 2015.
Pataki, like others on this list, also kept a low-profile since ending his campaign. He later endorsed Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich for the party’s nomination, and called on Trump to step down from the campaign after the “Access Hollywood” “grab them by the p—-” tape was revealed.
Former Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley was viewed as someone who could be a formidable challenger to Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Unfortunately for him, independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont quickly became that alternative to Clinton, leaving O’Malley out in the cold. He ended his campaign right after a dismal showing in the February 2016 Iowa caucuses.
O’Malley is still heavily involved in Democratic politics, campaigning for candidates along the 2018 trail. He started his own political action committee, called Win Back Your State PAC, which is aimed at assisting down-ballot Democrats. Some think he might jump back into the presidential ring again and make a second bid at the White House in 2020.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who had a much more fruitful bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, didn’t get much support his second time around in the 2016 cycle. He ended his campaign after the Iowa caucuses and soon backed Trump in his effort to win the presidency.
Huckabee, a prominent supporter of the president, was considered for a Cabinet-level position during the presidential transition period. Now, you can find him spouting his opinions on Twitter or as a cable news commentator. His daughter, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, is serving in the Trump White House as press secretary.
Like Huckabee, former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania found much more success in a past campaign – in his case, during the 2012 presidential cycle – than he did in 2016. He too would drop out of the race after the Iowa caucuses.
Santorum would eventually end up backing Trump. He is now a senior political commentator on CNN.
Republican Sen. Rand Paul was a favourite of the libertarian corner of the GOP long before he began his presidential bid. Some thought he had a good chance of going far in the 2016 cycle with his added appeal to younger voters, some of whom backed his father, former Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, in past presidential elections. But Paul was overshadowed by several larger figures in the 2016 race, and he too suspended his campaign after the Iowa caucuses.
Paul then jumped back into the Senate race in Kentucky, running for reelection to his Senate seat and winning that fall. Paul has become one of Trump’s closest allies in Washington, though they often don’t see eye-to-eye on policy. Late in 2017, Paul was apparently assaulted by a neighbour, suffering multiple broken ribs. He also recently staged a memorable filibuster-of-sorts ahead of the vote on a bipartisan budget package, which he slammed over how it would grow the deficit.
Former Republican Gov. Chris Christie made it past the February 2016 New Hampshire primary before calling it quits in the presidential race.
He soon backed Trump and became one of his closest allies, though he was boxed out from a White House or Cabinet-level job after Trump’s victory. He watched as his approval ratings in New Jersey hit incredible lows, leaving office earlier this year to little fanfare.
Carly Fiorina, a former tech executive who sought the Republican nomination for president, also called it quits after New Hampshire.
Fellow failed candidate Ted Cruz, a Texas senator, made a strange move to announce Fiorina as his running mate before locking down the party’s nomination, which he would fail to do. Fiorina has kept a low profile since the handful of days she spent as Cruz’s running mate. She called on Trump to step aside after the “Access Hollywood” tape was released and, in late 2017, described being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace.
Former Republican Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, a late addition to the Republican field, never seemed to catch on much. But he outlasted several bigger-name candidates before the South Carolina primary in February 2016. He received a grand total of 12 votes in Iowa and 133 votes in New Hampshire.
Gilmore currently serves as the president and CEO of the American Opportunity Foundation, a conservative think tank. He was also under consideration for an ambassadorship in the Trump administration.
Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida was the favourite heading into the 2016 Republican primary. But after being targeted by Trump in his early days of campaigning, Bush quickly slid further and further down the ladder. He dropped out of the race following a disappointing finish in the South Carolina primary.
Since ending his campaign, Bush has said he will likely never seek public office again. He rejoined the Foundation for Excellence in Education following his campaign, and has also taught classes as Texas A&M University. At times, he has been staunchly critical of Trump.
Famed neurosurgeon Ben Carson sought the Republican nomination in the 2016 cycle and found great success, even reaching the top position in the polls before ceding it to Trump. He ended his campaign early in March 2016.
Carson quickly backed Trump, even though the billionaire had savaged Carson along the trail. Carson then found a home in the Trump administration, becoming the president’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was considered a rising star within the party and a candidate many thought had a chance of winning the party’s nomination. But it was not in the cards for Rubio as he had a dismal finish in the Florida primary and dropped out immediately after.
Rubio, within months, announced he would seek reelection to his Florida Senate seat after initially saying he would forgo reelection. He won in the fall, defeating Democratic nominee Patrick Murphy. Rubio has kept a somewhat low profile during the start of his second term in the Senate, though he’s been outspoken on certain, specific issues such as paid family leave.
Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich battled till the very end of the Republican primary, dropping out after the Indiana primary in May 2016, leaving Trump with a clear path to the nomination.
Kasich has been one of the party’s most outspoken members in the nearly two years that followed, often splitting from Trump and party leadership. Many feel that he is ramping up for another presidential campaign in 2020, possibly as an independent candidate to challenge Trump.
Cruz gave Trump his biggest battle, but it still was not enough to defeat him. The two went to war in the final months of the campaign, with Trump branding the Texas senator as “Lyin’ Ted.” In return, Cruz refused to give Trump an explicit endorsement until the campaign’s final months.
Cruz returned to the Senate, where he was once known as one of the most combative members of the body. This time around, however, he’s maintained a much lower profile. He’s currently running for reelection in 2018 against Democratic Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
Sanders shocked the world with his much-better-than-expected performance against Clinton in the Democratic primary. After duking it out with Clinton for months, he ended his campaign in June 2016, just weeks before the party’s convention.
Sanders returned to the Senate with a heightened profile, one he has embraced in the months that followed the 2016 election. Though he would be 79-years-old on inauguration day, 2021, Sanders is viewed as a leading contender for the Democratic Party’s 2020 nomination.
Green Party nominee Jill Stein didn’t win many votes in the 2016 election, but she likely was able to pull enough votes away from Clinton to swing the election in Trump’s favour, angering some liberals and others on the left.
In December, the Senate Intelligence Committee announced it was investigating Stein as a part of its probe into Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson was widely viewed as the leading third-party candidate heading into the November vote, but a string of gaffes in the final months of the campaign took a bit of wind out of his sails. Meanwhile, his vice presidential nominee, Bill Weld, seemed to encourage voters to cast ballots for Clinton over Trump.
After his defeat, Johnson completed a bike trip from Mexico to Canada in just 35 days. He’s vowed never to seek the presidency again, and he serves as an honorary chair of the Our America Initiative, a political advocacy committee he formed in 2009.
Independent candidate Evan McMullin jumped into the 2016 race in August 2016, just three months before the election. He gained some traction in Utah (McMullin is Mormon), but despite the fact that some expected he could beat Trump in the state, he ended up finishing substantially behind the Republican presidential nominee.
McMullin emerged from the election as a prominent and vocal critic of Trump. He and his running mate, Mindy Finn, founded the Stand Up Republic group, which continues to advocate for some of the causes McMullin ran on in opposition to Trump. He has suggested that he will again seek public office in the future.
Clinton was the favourite to win the presidency for much of the 2016 cycle, but she ended up falling jst short against Trump in what was an election result that went against the predictions of almost every expert.
Clinton has maintained a diminished public profile since losing the presidency, sometimes criticising Trump in speeches and interviews. She authored a book on the campaign titled “What Happened,” and she even made an appearance during the Grammy awards where she read an excerpt of Michael Wolff’s controversial book on the Trump administration, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House.”
Most people didn’t think Trump, a Manhattan billionaire, had much of a shot when he entered the presidential race in mid-2015. But he ended up proving many of the doubters wrong, winning the presidency.
A good number of people had no idea how long Trump would last as president, as a number of controversies and scandals swirl around his White House. But more than a year after taking office, Trump remains leader of the free world.
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