School Photos of the 14 U.S. Presidential Candidates

When you’re in high school, aspirations run like perspiration. Ambition sprouts like pubic hair. Promise is as part of high school as pimples. Well, here are photos of 16 high schoolers whose dreams of becoming president never died.


In US politics, there’s no season more exciting than a presidential election cycle following a two-term president. Unlike races with an incumbent president, these wide-open elections amount to three races in all: First, the simultaneous 18-month-long elimination games where each party publicly in-fights in national debates and primaries until two champions emerge. Then it’s a head-to-head showdown until November. The stakes are never higher, so the campaigns start early; for 2016, they already have.

Here are the seven candidates on each side most likely to win their party’s nomination. Take a good look – one of these 14 will be your next president. We’ll assess their chances and show their high school photos too, just to keep ’em grounded — gotta remember your roots, folks.

ON THE LEFT:

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Hilary Clinton, in high school and finishing undergrad

Hillary Rodham Clinton

U.S. Secretary of State 2009–2013
U.S. Senator from New York 2001–2009
Presidential candidate in 2008

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why She Could Win – Winnability: To borrow a line from the Republican playbook, she’s “next in line,” and voters like to vote for candidates they think can win. With the latest polls showing a 49-point lead on the number two contender, it’s difficult to imagine the Democratic nomination going to anyone else unless something drastic changes between now and 2016.

Why She Could Lose – History: Despite her resume, she still has to fight the label of “inexperience” that has haunted her continuously since 2008. On the flip side, there is the lingering criticism that Clinton is too much the politician, too controlled and careful when speaking, leaving some voters unsure where her loyalties will truly lie once she takes office.

 

Joe Biden, age 11 and age 18
Joe Biden, age 11 and age 18

Joe Biden

Vice President of the United States since 2009
U.S. Senator from Delaware 1973–2009
Presidential Candidate in 1988 and 2008

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Economy: Vice presidents almost always run for president after their superiors leave office (Dick Cheney is the notable recent exception). And, as the overseer of the stimulus plan and spending program central to the government’s economic recovery plan, Biden is widely credited with the improvements that have resulted from them.

Why He Could Lose – Personality: Biden has made enough gaffes in public appearances to populate several top 10 lists on the internet — some of his gaffes have even been serious enough to require official apologies to foreign leaders, raising some reasonable concerns about the dangers of a president with poor communication skills. And that’s if he’s even elected. Let’s not forget that charm is no small matter in a race which many believe is routinely lost by the candidate with the less charismatic personality.

 

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Martin O’Malley’s prom night

Martin O’Malley

Governor of Maryland since 2007
Mayor of Baltimore 1999–2007

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Star Power: His achievements in cleaning up crime and improving education in Baltimore have earned him national praise, and his efforts to help undocumented immigrants get college tuition and bring same-sex marriage to Maryland were both upheld by voters.

Why He Could Lose – Invisibility: Despite his popularity in his home state, he’s failed as of yet to make a national impression on voters across the country, ranking consistently one or two percent in national polls. Though Democratic presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter also got elected despite similarly low starting poll numbers. To win, O’Malley will need to similarly distinguish himself in this lineup of loud and well-known personalities.

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Elizabeth Warren

U. S. Senator from Massachusetts since 2013
Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 2010-2011
Chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel 2008-2010

Status – Has publicly denied running 4 times, but leads in straw polls of the Liberal Left.

Why She Could Win – Ally of The 99%: Consistently proving herself as one of the loudest voices in Washington holding big banks accountable, taking back Ted Kennedy’s prized Massachusetts senate seat from Scott Brown, and championing the populist cause of income inequality have given Warren a national hero status among the Far Left in just three years.

Why She Could Lose – Enemy of The 1 percent: Warren is a fighter, and fighters make enemies. Big banks and their supporters are afraid of her, with good reason. Additionally, though most agree on her economic expertise, some have pointed out her relatively short four-year legislative record in Washington, notably the exact same length of time Obama served before running.

 

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Jim Webb (okay, he’s not a student in this pic, but he’s probably learning something nautical).

Jim Webb

U.S. Senator from Virginia 2007–2013
U.S. Secretary of the Navy 1987–1988

Status – Has announced he is “taking steps,” but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Right Enough for the Right: With a decorated Navy and Defense record, he stands out as the kind of candidate from the Left that could appeal to voters on the Right. He’s also the most centrist of the lineup in his views, which historically has benefited Dem candidates.

Why He Could Lose – Too Right for the Left: Though his record does give off a ring of winnability, he will certainly be grilled on his stances on a variety of social issues in which he stands to the right of the rest of the lineup including such hot-button topics as affirmative action, immigration and climate change. Dem voters in turn will have to ask themselves if they’re interested in moving further to the right than the current President, especially with such a rainbow of options to choose from that are further left wing.

 

Bernie Sanders at age 22
Bernie Sanders at age 22

Bernie Sanders

Independent U.S. Senator from Vermont since 2007
Independent U.S. Representative from Vermont 1991–2007

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Excitement: Already the longest-serving Independent in Congressional history, should Sanders be elected he would be the first Jewish and self-proclaimed socialist president. Also, having been a mayor, representative and senator, he has a long, varied resume.

Why He Could Lose – Extremism: Though his popularity is great enough to create a national following, the voters in his camp represent the far-left end of the party. If the Right is unhappy now with Obama’s positions on social issues, how likely is it they’ll warm up to a Socialist Jew fighting for a national minimum-wage increase and publicly calling for more marches on Washington in hopes of a “political revolution.”

 

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Andrew Cuomo

Governor of New York since 2011
Attorney General of New York 2007–2010
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development 1997–2001

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Ready to Lead: As Governor of New York, Cuomo has earned a reputation as a leader who can get big things done quickly, and is credited with bringing same-sex marriage to the state, and his active response to Hurricane Sandy showed signs of national readiness.

Why He Could Lose – Already Too Loud: More than once, Cuomo has made harsh public comments about the Republican Party and, when called out, expressed little show of remorse for causing any potential alienation. Most infamously he declared that those who are “right to life, pro-assault weapon, anti-gay” in their beliefs “have no place in the State of New York.” He may have a tough job winning over voters who fall into any of those categories.

 

ON THE RIGHT:

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Chris Christie

Governor of New Jersey since 2010

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Bridging the Gap: With gray-area positions on social issues such as same-sex marriage and abortion, he has built a reputation as a wild card within the Republican party that appeals to some Democrats as possibly open to bipartisan solutions on complicated issues.

Why He Could Lose – Escaping the Bridge: If Christie runs, one skeleton that will likely pulled out of the closet is the “Bridgegate” scandal of 2013, which sparked a national media frenzy after emails leaked showing Christie’s administration sending a directive which caused a massive traffic jam in Fort Lee, seemingly intended as political retaliation against the town’s mayor for not endorsing Christie’s re-election campaign. Even though internal reviews cleared Christie himself of connection to the act, it’s not as resolved in voters’ minds. The Democratic National Committee, for example, publicly stated that they still ultimately hold Christie responsible for the incident.

 

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Jeb Bush

Governor of Florida 1999–2007

Status – Has announced having formed a PAC tasked with “exploring a presidential bid”.

Why He Could Win – He’s a Bush: Despite the Bush family’s negative reputation among Dems, they still have huge sway on the Right, and they’re a campaigning powerhouse. Additionally, Florida is a key state to win, and Jeb Bush speaks Spanish, which appeals to some Latino voters.

Why He Could Lose – He’s a Bush: Family legacies work both ways, and many still have strong feelings about the Bushes, having not forgotten the two wars and economic crash that occurred under Bush number two’s watch. Bush number three will have a major challenge distancing himself from that.

 

Ted Cruz, high school photo, yearbook picture

Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator from Texas since 2013
Solicitor General of Texas 2003–2008

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Making Friends: Early in the “Obamacare” debate, Ted Cruz stood out as a vocal critic, earning him major support from the anti-Obama right, especially amongst the Tea Party, in which his voice as a Latino leader added credibility to a group criticized for being all-white.

Why He Could Lose – Making Waves: Having been called names in the media such as “bully”, “wacko bird”, and “the most despised man in the Senate”, Cruz has probably earned more negative character reviews from the Left than anyone on the Right’s lineup. Though this proudly-obstructionist air is precisely what the Right praises him for, his deliberately-wacky filibusters have sometimes ended up causing more problems than progress for his own party; so he’s sure to have plenty of critics coming from all sides.

 

Rand Paul dissecting a cat, the same way he's gonna dissect wasteful spending out of our congressional budget.
Rand Paul dissecting a cat, the same way he’s gonna dissect wasteful spending out of our congressional budget.

Rand Paul

U.S. Senator from Kentucky since 2011

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Mr. Right: In the Republican National Convention straw poll in Maine last March, Paul was the big surprise winner with 26 percent, more than double the second place contender, signaling to some he may be the most likeable Tea Party candidate to run thus far.

Why He Could Lose – Mr. Right Now: He has only been in the Senate since 2011, and compared to the rest of the lineup on both sides, that makes him one of the least experienced candidates. Additionally, though his counter-party positions on issues such as criticizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq or criminal justice reform have earned him a surge in popularity among Libertarians (though he doesn’t embrace the label fully, calling himself merely “Libertarian-ish”) these off-beat stances may make him a tough sell for the larger Republican base.

 

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Rick Perry

Governor of Texas since 2000
Lieutenant Governor of Texas 1999–2000
Presidential Candidate in 2012

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – Perry’s Got Passion: After three consecutive terms as Governor and an impressive record on job growth in his own state, Perry has shown that he still has ambitions in running for the top office. And if anyone has the guts required to run again after a total fumble in 2012, it’s Rick Perry.

Why He Could Lose – Perry’s Got Problems: As if his 2012 campaign debate blunders weren’t enough to make him want to quit, he recently got indicted for abuse of power for allegedly pressuring a district attorney to resign by eliminating funding to her office. Also, some speculate a competing campaign from Jeb Bush could split the high-level Texas donor base in two, possibly jeopardizing funds he’d need to go all the way, due to the Bush family’s strong ties to key Texas donors.

 

Marco Rubio, high school photo, yearbook picture, teenage, teenager, teen

Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator from Florida since 2011

Status – Has expressed interest, and says his decision will come “certainly soon”.

Why He Could Win – Changing the Climate: As a Latino leader in Florida of Cuban parents, Rubio has struck a new tone in the GOP’s immigration discussions by opposing deportation and advocating for improved options so undocumented immigrants living in America can become legal citizens. Both may prove effective in inspiring Latino voters. Plus, he’s from Florida, garnering him some fans from his huge electoral state.

Why He Could Lose – But Climate Not Changing: His staunch and vocal views calling climate change a ‘myth’ have alienated a huge number of potential voters who disagree. Additionally, he’s probably going to be sharing Florida with Jeb Bush, and that’s a fight he’ll likely lose.

 

Scott Walker, high school picture, yearbook photo, teen, teenager

Scott Walker

Governor of Wisconsin since 2011

Status – Has expressed interest, but has not yet declared candidacy.

Why He Could Win – New Kid on the Block: His three election victories in the last four years have garnered national attention, and his firm stance during the Wisconsin union protests made him a person-to-watch in the eyes of the GOP. Plus, with its 10 points, Wisconsin’s a valuable blue state to win — most strategists still consider it winnable by either party. While it’s true Dems have won the state in every presidential election since 1988, it’s been close every single time, with margins of less than 1 percent in 2000 and 2004.

Why He Could Lose – Not In Sync: Despite his victories, his public appearances have shown a lack of charisma that has earned him the difficult-to-erase stamp of being “boring” from many sides in the media. His fans happily brush that stamp aside, but no one can deny that a certain degree of charm and oratory ability is necessary to win the party’s nomination. Plus, his resume lacks any kind of foreign policy experience, which he’ll have to defend.


Devin Bannon is a journalist, playwright, and performer who creates and produces plays in Seattle and works for The Stranger.