With the first primaries in the 2016 elections just more than two years away, the top candidates are beginning to position themselves for potential presidential runs. From non-denial denials of their presidential ambitions to speeches in the early primary states, take a look at how the candidates are getting ready for the upcoming elections.


Hillary Clinton

Former First Lady of the U.S. and former U.S. Secretary of State

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 67%
  • Fundraising: Clinton raised $220 million for her 2008 campaign, and is known for her prodigious fundraising ability. She helped fundraise for Terry McAuliffe’s successful Virginia gubernatorial campaign earlier in 2013.
  • Liabilities: The Clinton baggage. Though former President Bill Clinton is among the most popular political figures in America, scandals ranging from Monica Lewinsky to Whitewater remain tied to the Clinton name. Hillary Clinton’s tenure at Secretary of State also involves questions about her department’s response to a terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012 that left four dead.
  • What They’ve Said: “I really do hope that we have a woman president in my lifetime.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: None since leaving office, but she campaigned in all 50 states in 2008, including months spent in Iowa and New Hampshire.
  • Shadow Campaign: None coordinated by Clinton herself, but Ready for Hillary PAC is the most organized of any shadow campaign. Created by longtime Clinton associates, Ready for Hillary has already raised millions of dollars and corralled major endorsements to encourage Clinton to run and support her if she does.

Joe Biden

Vice President of the U.S.

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 10%.
  • Fundraising: Biden has strong ties to national fundraising networks from his 35 years in the U.S. Senate, in addition to two failed presidential campaigns and two successful vice presidential campaigns.
  • Liabilities: Biden is known for his tendency to speak candidly, which has led to widely publicized gaffes. Questions about his age could also become an issue if he runs.
  • What They’ve Said: “I can die a happy man never having been president…but it doesn’t mean I won’t run.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: Biden has been to Iowa multiple times in the last two years, including for Sen. Tom Harkin’s famed steak fry and speaking engagements for the Iowa Democratic Party. Biden also raised eyebrows by personally calling the winners of several Iowa mayoral races.
  • Shadow Campaign: None active. Biden has rallied sections of the Democratic base, including the LGBT community by coming out in favor of gay marriage before President Barack Obama and female voters by guiding the Violence Against Women Act through Congress.

Andrew Cuomo

Governor of New York

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 5%.
  • Fundraising: Cuomo comes from a storied political family and has built a huge donor network through his time in the Clinton administration and as governor. He is well respected within New York City’s wealthy financial sector.
  • Liabilities: After pursuing gun control and gay marriage laws sure to please the middle of the base, Cuomo has turned to the center and seen his poll numbers come down from their record highs. His family name could also be a problem if connections to corruption arise.
  • What They’ve Said: “Hillary Clinton is going to do whatever Hillary Clinton is going to do and I'm doing what I'm doing. I'm focusing on running this state and doing it the best I can. And that's all there is to that."
  • Trips To Early Primary States: None. Since taking office, Cuomo has spent every night in New York, and has steadfastly refused to do anything that would indicate he’s planning a 2016 run.
  • Shadow Campaign: None.

Martin O'Malley

Governor of Maryland

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 2%.
  • Fundraising: O’Malley served as chairman of the Democratic Governor’s Association, connecting him to a nationwide network of donors.
  • Liabilities: Largely unknown nationally outside of political circles, O’Malley is viewed by many within the party as a solid second or third choice.
  • What They’ve Said: “By the end of this year I think we’re on course to have a body of work that lays the framework for a candidacy in 2016.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: O’Malley has consistently traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire for fundraisers and speaking events. He also served as a prominent surrogate for Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, including interviews with Iowa and New Hampshire news outlets.
  • Shadow Campaign: O’Malley has openly begun to organize a campaign. He has consistently appeared on Sunday morning shows to showcase Maryland’s movement on liberal causes, including gay marriage, taxes and the death penalty.

Elizabeth Warren

U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 5%.
  • Fundraising: Warren raised a Massachusetts record $42 million for her 2012 Senate race, but had never run for public office before and does not have a broad network of wealthy donors. Her popularity with the Democratic base, however, led to an influx of small-dollar donations to her Senate campaign from all over the nation.
  • Liabilities: Having only been in elected office for a year, Warren is relatively untested and unvetted. In her 2012 race she faced allegations that she lied about her ethnicity on multiple occasions.
  • What They’ve Said: “You’ve asked me about the politics. All I can do is take you back to the principle part of this. ... I know what I am in Washington to do: I’m here to fight for hard-working families.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: None, although her expensive 2012 Senate run in Massachusetts featured heavy spending on advertisements in the Boston media market, which encompasses much of New Hampshire.
  • Shadow Campaign: None. Warren aides did speak anonymously to The New Republic for a recent article that declared Warren would be Clinton’s “worst nightmare” in 2016.


Chris Christie

Governor of New Jersey

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 16%.
  • Fundraising: Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign saw him utilize a nationwide donor base, including wealthy backers from coast to coast. He’s about to become the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, giving him access to even more donors. Reports indicate that more moderate big-money donors concerned about the future of the party have rallied behind Christie as a potential candidate.
  • Liabilities: Christie has built his reputation as a more pragmatic problem solver willing to do what’s needed, including working with Democrats, which could cause problems in the primaries. He also has faced questions about his weight and temperament.
  • What They’ve Said: When asked if he’s considering a run, Christie said, “Who knows. I don't know. I'm going to continue to do my job and finish the job… So, nobody can make those predictions.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: Christie visited Iowa this summer for a fundraiser, in addition to trips to New Hampshire and Iowa on behalf of Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign.
  • Shadow Campaign: Former Christie aides and staffers have been hired for numerous political roles in Iowa and New Hampshire, and Christie has repeatedly criticized more ideological Republicans such as Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.

Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator from Florida

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 9%.
  • Fundraising: Since becoming a national star in the party, Rubio has been a prodigious fundraiser for other members of the party. He had strong fundraising in 2012 but has not built a full nationwide network donors.
  • Liabilities: Rubio’s inexperience has led some to questions about whether he should be the party’s standard-bearer and some in the conservative media have said that his immigration stance has disqualified him.
  • What They’ve Said: "I told people I haven't even thought about that. That's a decision far in the future."
  • Trips To Early Primary States: A series of trips to Iowa and South Carolina to speak to party activists in recent months have stoked speculation that Rubio will run.
  • Shadow Campaign: Minimal, if any. Rubio gave his party’s response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union—which was marred by a conspicuous sip of water—and helped spearhead the effort for an immigration compromise in the Senate. Rubio’s softened stance on immigration, however, has earned him criticism from the right.

Ted Cruz

U.S. Senator from Texas

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 10%.
  • Fundraising: Cruz’s popularity with grassroots activists has made him capable of fundraising effectively from small-dollar donations. He also has ties to prominent Texas donors.
  • Liabilities: His firebrand style, while responsible for his national prominence, has also led to criticism from those who believe shutting down the government hurt the party and the country. He also faces legal questions about his dual citizenship in Canada and his father, a well-known pastor, has made controversial remarks.
  • What They’ve Said: “We are having a national debate about which direction the country should go, and what I am doing now is trying to participate in that national debate.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: Cruz has been to Iowa and South Carolina in recent months, including a trip to Iowa in October to visit conservative U.S. Rep. Steve King.
  • Shadow Campaign: It isn’t so much a campaign as the way Cruz conducts himself. Since arriving in the Senate, Cruz has ruffled feathers by making a habit of opposing party leaders in an effort to combat Obama’s agenda. The most prominent example of this was the government shutdown, which Cruz spearheaded and promoted as a method to defund Obamacare.

Rand Paul

U.S. Senator from Kentucky

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 13%.
  • Fundraising: Paul has used some of his father’s network of small-dollar donors in addition to solid relationships with prominent GOP donors.
  • Liabilities: Paul is known for an occasionally confrontational style, in addition to a focus on social issues that some in his party would rather not focus on. He has also faced accusations of plagiarism and questions about the positions on race that some of his aides have taken.
  • What They’ve Said: “We're thinking about growing the party. What comes after that, we'll see.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: Paul has repeatedly traveled to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina to meet with party leaders and activists. When he was campaigning for his father’s 2008 and 2012 presidential bids, he stumped in the early primary states.
  • Shadow Campaign: Paul has reportedly met with major national donors to pitch himself as a more reasonable conservative option compared to Cruz and Christie. His 12-hour anti-drone filibuster also launched him into the national spotlight, and some of his father’s supporters have expressed a desire for Paul to run.

Jeb Bush

Former Governor of Florida

  • Poll Numbers: Average of 9%.
  • Fundraising: Bush has access to the vaunted Bush family fundraising machine, and has used it to raise hefty sums in his gubernatorial campaigns. Many prominent donors are reportedly waiting to see if Bush runs before deciding which candidate to support.
  • Liabilities: The Bush name, though somewhat recovered, is still not popular nationally following Jeb's brother's presidency. Bush also faced criticism after his book on immigration did not support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, which he had previously indicated he supported.
  • What They’ve Said: “We'll make the decision at the proper time – at least a year from now.”
  • Trips To Early Primary States: In 2012 Bush made trips to both Iowa and South Carolina, though he points out that he has made trips to dozens of states in the last few years.
  • Shadow Campaign: None. Bush strenuously denies that he is considering running yet, though he did appear on all five Sunday morning talk shows to promote his book on immigration reform in the spring.