Masters of the Universe

Who Has the Right Stuff to be President?


Hillary Clinton

Age: 68

From: Grew up in Chicago; attended Yale Law School; moved to Arkansas; spent eight years at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.; finally ended up in New York.

Résumé: Former defense attorney; former first lady of Arkansas and the United States of America; former New York senator; former Secretary of State.

Known for: In many ways, Clinton's campaign is a repudiation of the moderate third-way policies of her husband, especially on issues like gay rights and criminal justice reform. While she has a more hawkish foreign policy than President Obama, she's seized upon issues of equal pay and abortion rights domestically, and has even attacked Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders from the left, accusing him of being weak on gun control. Just as Republicans have veered rightward (and Trump-ward), Democrats have drifted gradually leftward — and the focus-group-honed Clinton is proof of that.

Infamous for: At a time when cybersecurity is a major threat, the decision to contradict government policy by using her own unsecured private email server only strengthens the critique of the Clintons as secretive, paranoid and dishonest. And while Clinton celebrates her sanctions laying the groundwork for the Iranian nuclear deal, her legacy as Secretary of State is a messy one: Russia has grown more aggressive, ISIS is ascendant in Iraq, civil war rages in Syria, chaos reigns in Libya and terrorist attacks have hit Paris and San Bernardino, California. Meanwhile, her close ties to Wall Street and the appearance that powerful corporations and other countries have bought influence through donations to the Clinton Foundation represents everything that Bernie Sanders supporters despise about politics.

Candidacy in six words: Inevitable, but for real this time. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Martin O'Malley

Age: 52

From: Baltimore

Résumé: After graduating from law school, O'Malley served as assistant state's attorney for the city of Baltimore before being elected to city council in 1991. Eight years later he was elected Baltimore mayor, overcoming the challenge of being a white candidate in a predominately black city. In 2006, he defeated a Republican incumbent to become governor of Maryland. Four years later, he was re-elected against the same opponent.

Known for: O'Malley has striking similarities to Tommy Carcetti, a politician in the HBO drug-war epic The Wire. As both mayor and governor, O'Malley used data to track the responsiveness of government. He supports same-sex marriage, tighter gun control and increasing renewable energy, and generally leans left on other policy issues.

Infamous for: While running for governor, O'Malley was accused of cooking the books regarding crime numbers in an attempt to make Baltimore look safer.

Candidacy in seven words: That guy who isn't Hillary or Bernie. (JAKE THOMAS)

Bernie Sanders

Age: 74

From: Born in Brooklyn, New York; lives in Burlington, Vermont.

Résumé: Two-term U.S. Senator from Vermont, former Vermont congressman and mayor of Burlington. A self-proclaimed Democratic socialist, whose politics stretch further to the left than any other candidate. He's served in Congress as an independent for 25 years — the longest tenure of its kind in American history.

Known for: Being sick and tired of hearing about Hillary's "damn emails." Unlike Clinton, Sanders is against the death penalty. He believes that health care is a "right of all people," but his primary issue is economic inequality. If Bernie has his way, large corporations will pay their "fair share" of taxes. He also wants to increase the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

Infamous for: Sanders' campaign sued the Democratic National Committee in federal court last month after it restricted his access to a voter database. The restriction came after a Sanders staffer found a gap in the firewall that allowed a look at confidential voter data collected by Hillary Clinton's camp, a big no-no, as voter databases are gold mines of information for campaigns. He has his own line of underwear, featuring his cartoon likeness on the rear.

Candidacy in six words: Elizabeth Warren in Larry David's body. (MITCH RYALS)


Jeb Bush

Age: 62

From: Born in Midland, Texas; raised in Houston; currently lives in Coral Gables, Florida.

Résumé: Former two-term governor of Florida; touts his record of slashing spending and ending affirmative action in the state's public college admissions process.

Known for: Bush is an ardent supporter of the federal Common Core academic standards. On the spectrum of "deport 'em!" to full citizenship, Bush falls somewhere in between. Under his plan, undocumented immigrants could earn work permits, and their children born in the U.S. would have full citizenship. He opposes gay marriage and the Affordable Care Act, and is very fiscally conservative. He was known as "Veto Corleone" during his time as governor.

Infamous for: Asked about gun violence in the wake of a shooting last October in Roseburg, Oregon, where nine people were killed, Bush said "Stuff happens. We're in a difficult time in our country, and I don't think more government is necessarily the answer to this. I think we need to reconnect ourselves with everybody else. It's very sad to see, but I resist the notion — and I had this challenge as governor — stuff happens, there's always a crisis, and the impulse is always to do something, and it's not always the right thing to do."

Candidacy in seven words: Brother of one president, son of another. (MITCH RYALS)

Ben Carson

Age: 64

From: Born and raised in Detroit; lives in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Résumé: Pediatric neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins for nearly 30 years; successfully separated conjoined twins, launching his career and helping earn him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2008. Played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 2009 TV movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story and had a cameo in Stuck on You. Carson has never previously run for office.

Known for: Carson's idea for tax reform is modeled on the Biblical tithing system, where everyone pays a flat rate of their income. If you make $10 billion, you give $1 billion; if you make $10, you pay $1. He opposes new regulations on guns, supports a secure border (though he stops short of advocating for a huge wall), denies that human activity has impacted climate change and believes that same-sex marriage is the "law of the land."

Infamous for: Last week, three of Carson's top advisors resigned, questioning his readiness for the White House, after a power struggle for control of his campaign and his sharp decline in the polls leading up to primary season. Campaign manager Barry Bennett, communications director Doug Watts and deputy campaign manager Lisa Coen resigned, along with 18 other members of his campaign staff.

Candidacy in six words: A fact-checker's dream — or nightmare. (MITCH RYALS)

Chris Christie

Age: 53

From: Born in Newark, Christie has lived his entire life in New Jersey except to attend college in Delaware.

Résumé: After campaigning and raising money for George W. Bush, Christie was appointed U.S. attorney for New Jersey in 2002. He beat incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009 and was re-elected four years later in a landslide, an impressive feat for a Republican in a blue state.

Known for: His brash style; there are numerous videos of Christie on YouTube publicly berating citizens of his state. Christie has governed conservatively, vetoing bills from the Democratic legislature regarding spending, animal welfare, same-sex marriage and increasing the minimum wage. Christie has also taken a hard line on marijuana, saying that he would crack down on medical and recreational use of pot if elected president.

Infamous for: Christie was viewed by supporters as a strong contender for president after his victories in a blue state. That all changed in 2014, when it was revealed that a senior Christie aide and a Christie appointee orchestrated the closure of a lane on the George Washington Bridge that caused a massive traffic backup. The closure was viewed as a retaliatory act against a mayor who wouldn't endorse the governor's re-election bid. Although no charges have been brought against Christie and he has denied involvement, he hasn't been able to shake the scandal.

Candidacy in eight words: Once-rising politician struggles to "bridge" the gap. (JAKE THOMAS)

Ted Cruz

Age: 45

From: Born in Canada (Calgary, Alberta; he renounced his Canadian citizenship in 2014); grew up in Houston.

Résumé: Graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Law School; former clerk for former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist; former Texas solicitor general; George W. Bush policy advisor; U.S. Senator.

Known for: Cruz's pariah status in the Senate — where he's known for filibustering Obamacare, opposing immigration reform efforts and pushing for government shutdowns — may be the best possible attribute in this anti-establishment primary season. Cruz's deftness at flattering Donald Trump has saved him from the worst of Trump's insult-comic zingers and has endeared him to Trump's merciless fan base. If this topsy-turvy primary season suddenly rights itself again and Trump's polls plummet, Cruz plans to be the one who snatches up Trump's voters. Many pundits see the primary season coming down to Cruz and fellow senator Marco Rubio.

Infamous for: Cruz has called the Senate Majority Leader of his own party a liar. If it weren't for Trump, Cruz would be the candidate besieged by accusations that he's too extreme even for Republicans. His libertarian-tinged rhetoric, meanwhile, seems plagued with contradictions, from his intense opposition to gay marriage to his promises, despite condemning "military adventurism," to carpet-bomb ISIS to see if "sand can glow in the dark."

Candidacy in 10 words: Uniting both parties in their common hatred of Ted Cruz. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Carly Fiorina

Age: 61

From: Born in Austin, Texas; lives in Mason Neck, Virginia.

Résumé: Fiorina was the CEO of Hewlett-Packard from 1999 until 2005, when she left after a fight with the company's board. She might've come out on top, taking home a $21 million severance package. Under her tenure, H-P laid off 30,000 of its U.S. employees. No previous political experience, except for a failed U.S. Senate campaign in California in 2010.

Known for: Being vehemently against Planned Parenthood. She acknowledges climate change, but claims that the problem is too big for any one nation to address alone. Supports replacing the Affordable Care Act with federally subsidized programs run by individual states.

Infamous for: From the debate stage last September, Fiorina described in graphic detail a video of an apparent abortion depicting a moving fetus on a table and a clinician talking about harvesting its brain. An Associated Press writer followed up on Fiorina's description, clarifying that the clinician's comments and abortion footage are not part of the same scene.

Candidacy in four words: She's not Hillary Clinton. (MITCH RYALS)

Mike Huckabee

Age: 60

From: Born in Hope, Arkansas; lives in the beach community of South Walton, in the Florida panhandle.

Résumé: Huckabee, a Southern Baptist pastor, was governor of Arkansas from 1996 until 2007. He was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 2008, winning the Iowa caucus and six other states, mostly in the South, before dropping out in early March.

Known for: Huckabee believes that radical Islam is a major threat to the United States; thinks homosexuality is a lifestyle choice similar to drinking or swearing; is a supporter of gun rights (he's a lifetime member of the NRA) and says that Common Core was a good idea, but that ultimately, education standards should be left up to the states.

Infamous for: Huckabee is a huge supporter of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples after a Supreme Court decision to the contrary. Huckabee also has compared abortion to the Holocaust.

Candidacy in nine words: Southern Baptist minister who wants to rule the country. (MITCH RYALS)

John Kasich

Age: 63

From: McKees Rocks, a working-class city in western Pennsylvania.

Résumé: At age 26, Kasich was elected to the Ohio legislature. From 1983 to 2001, he served in the U.S. House, representing part of Columbus. After stepping down, he worked as managing director for the Columbus branch of Lehman Brothers, an investment bank, and hosted a show on Fox News. In 2010, he was elected governor of Ohio, narrowly defeating the Democratic incumbent; he was re-elected easily in 2014.

Known for: In Congress, Kasich rankled both sides of the aisle with his fiscal conservatism, helping push cuts to the defense budget and social programs. He's also known for more moderate stances. He's acknowledged climate change, attended a gay wedding and expanded a federal health insurance program for low-income people in his state.

Infamous for: Kasich's association with Lehman Brothers, which filed for the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history in 2008, has been used against him. He's also made gaffes on the campaign trail, suggesting that teachers' lounges should be abolished and making a clumsy remark about tipping his hotel maid in a failed attempt to commend Latinos.

Candidacy in six words: Perhaps the least inflammatory Republican candidate. (JAKE THOMAS)

Rand Paul

Age: 53

From: Born in Pittsburgh; lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Résumé: A libertarian-leaning ophthalmologist, Paul was elected as a U.S. Senator from Kentucky in 2010. His dad, Ron Paul, a libertarian folk hero and former longtime Texas congressman, ran for president in 1988, 2008 and 2012.

Known for: A desire to shrink the government. Paul really dislikes the National Security Agency — he led a 10½-hour filibuster against government surveillance last May. He's "skeptical" about the death penalty, but rather than abolish it completely, Paul believes it should be left up to the states.

Infamous for: Shortly after winning the Kentucky Republican primary, Paul was criticized after making controversial comments about parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that place restrictions on discrimination in private businesses. Paul has since tried to defend himself, claiming that he abhors racism, but believes that it's the job of communities, not the government, to stand up to discrimination in private places.

Candidacy in nine words: Not even the NSA wants to listen to him. (MITCH RYALS)

Marco Rubio

From: Miami.

Age: 44

Résumé: Former West Miami city commissioner; former Florida House of Representatives majority leader and speaker of the house; U.S. Senator.

Known for: In many ways, this son of a Cuban immigrant has the same attributes that made Barack Obama such a hit in 2008. The young, charismatic Cuban's policy-packed debate answers have been a vivid contrast from the rest of the field. In a primary dominated by fear, Rubio is one of the few with the audacity to embed his rhetoric with hope. Here's just how weird this primary season is: A senator who upset a GOP establishment figure in the 2010 Tea Party wave is perhaps left as the establishment's last, best hope, standing in the way of a Trump or Cruz nomination.

Infamous for: After Mitt Romney's defeat in 2012, Republican party leaders came together with a policy prescription for turning the party around: immigration reform. Rubio helped lead that effort in the Senate. But it was a failure, one that even Rubio now admits was a mistake. In the age of Trump, the party has veered in the opposite direction on immigration, and rivals have gleefully scrambled to make Rubio's reform the cinder block that sinks him.

Candidacy in five words: The most conservative establishment moderate. (DANIEL WALTERS)

Rick Santorum

Age: 57

From: Born in northern Virginia to an Italian immigrant father, Santorum has lived most of his life in western Pennsylvania.

Résumé: In 1990, Santorum upset a longtime Democratic incumbent in a Democratic district in suburban Pittsburgh to win a U.S. House seat. He served a second term before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 1994, defeating another Democratic incumbent. After being re-elected, he was routed in his bid for a third term in 2006. He ran for president in 2012 as a more conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, the eventual Republican nominee. That year, Santorum narrowly won the Republican caucus in Iowa. He went on to win 10 more states, mostly in the South and Midwest, receiving nearly 4 million votes before his campaign ran out of steam.

Known for: A devout Catholic, Santorum is best known for his steadfast, outspoken social conservatism, vehemently opposing abortion and once likening homosexuality to beastiality and pedophilia (a comment he later said he regretted making). While in the Senate, Santorum largely supported the agenda of then-President George W. Bush, voting for tax cuts and the Iraq war.

Infamous for: Sex-advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage set up a website in 2003 that defined "santorum" as the byproduct of a sexual act. After Santorum lost his Senate seat and took down his own websites, Savage's neologism was featured more prominently in Google searches than references to the actual politician.

Candidacy in six words: Holy roller takes one more roll. (JAKE THOMAS)

Donald Trump

Age: 69

From: Born in Queens; made his name in Manhattan, then plastered it all over skyscrapers.

Résumé: Billionaire real-estate developer; former host of The Celebrity Apprentice; briefly presidential candidate for the Reform Party in 2000.

Known for: Running, essentially, the first Internet troll campaign in history, the billionaire vaulted to frontrunner, riding the free media attention generated by every outrageous statement he made. Your hatred? Your condemnation? Your pathetic little fact-checks? They just make him stronger. Trump's constituency, mostly economically insecure, non-college-educated whites, truly buy into his rhetoric: widespread deportations, a huge wall on the Mexican border, standing up to China, banning Muslims, and more. Through sheer brashness and crassness, they believe, Trump can restore the America they feel they've lost. Trump's also won grudging praise from critics for being willing to directly condemn the influence the rich and powerful — like himself — has on the political system.

Infamous for: Trump's widely condemned as a racist, a sexist, bigoted and a liar. He doesn't seem to know — or care about learning — details of Iranian terror groups, the nuclear triad or the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. With the exception of influential talk-radio hosts and a few anti-immigration bloggers, most conservative pundits are horrified by Trump, pointing to his history of praising Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and universal health care. They call his big-government solutions (Censor the internet! Start trade wars! Discriminate based on religion! Let the government seize private property!) about as far from conservatism as you can get.

Candidacy in eight words: Reality TV star isn't here to make friends. (DANIEL WALTERS)

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