The Presidential Candidates
Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States and the first African American to hold the office of Commander and Chief.
Obama was born in 1961 in Honolulu, Hawaii. His mother Anne Dunham was born in Kansas and his father Barack Obama, Sr. was originally from Kenya. They met at the University of Hawaii where they both were students. Ms. Dunham was an anthropologist who spent much of her adult life studying and working in Indonesia. Obama, Sr., an economist, returned to Kenya in 1964 and remained there for the rest of his life. The President’s mother died of cancer in 1995 and his father was killed in a car crash in 1982.
Obama grew up in Honolulu and then moved with his mother to Indonesia at the age of 6. In 1971, he returned to Honolulu. While his mother remained in Indonesia for most of his childhood, Obama lived in Hawaii with his maternal grandparents.
In 1979, Obama enrolled at Occidental College in Los Angeles but in 1981 transferred to Columbia University in New York City.
In 1985, two years after graduating from Columbia, Obama began work as a community organiser in Chicago. While there, he worked on a variety of issues such as public housing and education.
In 1988 he enrolled at Harvard Law School and was Editor of the Harvard Law Review. Obama was the first African-American selected to the prestigious position, and received much notoriety as a result. During law school, he also met his future wife Michelle Robinson, while they were both working at a law firm over the summer.
Upon graduation, Obama accepted a fellowship at the University of Chicago to work on a memoir. This book, Dreams from my Father, was published in 1995. Obama stayed on at the Univeristy, teaching constitutional law from 1992-2004. In 1996, he was elected to the Illinois state Senate and remained in office until he was elected to the US Senate in 2004. In 2000, he unsuccessfully challenged incumbent Congressman Bobby Rush in the Democratic primary. To date, it’s the only political election Obama has ever lost.
In early 2003, Obama announced he would run for the US Senate seat of the retiring Peter Fitzgerald. Obama won the Democratic primary and was set to face the Republican nominee Jack Ryan in the general election. However, Ryan was forced to withdraw from the race due to a sex scandal. He was was replaced on the ballot by the social conservative Alan Keyes.
While a Senate candidate, Obama gained notoriety for his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention calling for a unified America.
Obama easily won election to the Senate. While in office, he worked closely with Republican Senator Dick Lugar on nuclear disarmament.
Obama announced his candidacy for the presidency in early 2007. He campaigned on a platform of hope and change. Initially, it seemed unlikely that Obama could defeat Hillary Clinton who had been a central figure in the party for decades. However, Team Obama ran what many consider to be the best campaign in modern political history. Obama narrowly defeated Clinton, and went on to face Senator John McCain in the general election. On November 4, 2008 Obama was elected president, winning 52.9% of the vote and 365 electoral votes.
Obama took office in the midst of the financial crisis and in early 2009 he signed into law a nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package. One of his first stated goals was to pass a comprehensive health care reform, and, although the process took longer than anticipated, a health care bill was passed by Congress in March of 2010. During his first term Obama also ended the military policy of don’t ask don’t tell, signed into law the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, presided over the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, appointed two new members to the Supreme Court, and ordered a tactical mission that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Despite these legislative and foreign policy accomplishments, Obama’s first term has been fairly tumultuous. Economic recovery has been slow and he has at times been criticised by both the right and the left for his handling of the economy. Also, despite Democrats holding large majorities in both chambers of Congress when he took office, Obama has often found it difficult to enact many of his proposed policies. Obama’s term in office has not brought the unity that many had hoped for as government partisanship remains intense in Washington. Republicans in Congress have, for the most part, remain staunchly opposed to working with the president. Obama formally announced his re-election bid on 4 April 2011.
Joseph Biden is the Vice President of the United States. He was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1942. His family had fallen on rough times and they moved often before finally settling in Wilmington Delaware when Biden was 11.
He attended the University of Delaware where he didn’t take much interest in his studies but did excel on the football field. After graduation, he obtained a law degree from Syracuse University. While at Syracuse, he married Neilia Hunter and they settled in Wilmington after graduation. The couple had three children together.
He was elected to County Council in 1969. In 1972, he decided to run for the US Senate seat in Delaware. No other Democrats were interested in running for the seat considering it to be unwinnable. However, Biden pulled a massive upset defeating long-time incumbent J. Caleb Boggs.
Just weeks after winning election, his wife and one-year old daughter were killed in a car accident. Biden was devastated and didn’t want to take office but was convinced to stay. Throughout his Senate career, he’s commuted three hours round trip to ensure that he’s home at night to spend time with his family. In 1977, he married Jill Jacobs and the couple has one child together.
Biden was a prominent figure in the Senate Judiciary Committee serving as a chair during the contentious confirmation hearings of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. He was also an active in international issues, serving as either ranking minority member or Chair of the Committee on Foreign Relations from 1997-2008. He also drafted the Violence Against Women Act.
Biden ran for president in 1988 and then again in 2008, stirring up controversy with his comment Obama was the “first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean.” Nevertheless, Obama ended up picking him as his running mate because of his ability to relate to working class voters and experience in foreign policy.
Biden’s experience on Capitol Hill has proved instrumental in forging deal with Congress and he also helped persuade former Senator Arlen Specter to leave the Republican Party and become a Democrat.
A successful businessman and former Governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney is the presumptive Republican nominee for the 2012 presidential election.
Willard Mitt Romney was born in 1947 in Detroit, Michigan to George and Lenore Romney. George Romney had risen from humble circumstances to achieve great success in the automobile industry. He became CEO of American Motors when Mitt was 7.
From middle school on, Romney attended Cranbrook Schools, an elite preparatory school in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. In 1962, George Romney was elected governor of Michigan. He would hold the office for twelve years, and also for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968. The younger Romney worked on his father’s gubernatorial campaign and interned for him while he was in office. These early experiences with politics made a strong impression on Mitt.
In high school Romney also met his future wife, Anne Davies. After graduation, he went on to attend Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Romney had been raised Mormon and after his freshman year at Stanford he embarked on a two and a half year missionary trip in France.
While abroad, Romney’s faith grew increasingly strong. While he talks little about religion on the campaign trail it has played a large role in shaping his beliefs and values. Romney’s time abroad also kept him relatively insulated from the impassioned debate surrounding the Vietnam War.
Following his mission, Romney transferred to Brigham Young University where Anne attended. They married shortly thereafter and started a family. After graduation, Romney went on to Harvard where he received a joint JD and MBA degree.
In 1977 Romney joined the consulting firm Bain & Company. He did very well there and in 1984 he was put in charge of the new private equity corporation Bain Capital. The company achieved early success by helping get the office supply company Staples up and running.
Most of Bain Capitol’s business consisted of leveraged-buyouts in which they would acquire a majority stake in a company using money borrowed against said company’s assets as collateral. They would then resell the company sometime down the road with the goal of making a profit for investors. In 1990, Romney returned to Bain & Capitol as its CEO.
Romney made a challenge for Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat in 1994. While he emerged victorious from the Republican primary he ultimately lost to Kennedy by 17 points in the general election.
In 2002, he accepted an offer to organise and run the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The games turned a profit and his leadership was generally praised.
Determined to return to politics, Romney ran for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, pouring around 6 million dollars of his own money into the campaign. Billing himself as a moderate with generally liberal views on social issues, Romney won election, defeating Democratic nominee Shannon O’Brien.
Facing large Medicaid cuts if the state didn’t reduce its number of uninsured citizens, Romney, with the support of Ted Kennedy, helped institute a near universal health care system in Massachusetts. The system featured an individual mandate and served as the model for President Obama’s national health care reforms.
While in office Romney also shifted from a pro-life to a pro-choice position on abortion. Despite becoming the first state ever to create such a health care system, Romney faced a potentially difficult path to re-election and ultimately decided to step down after only one term.
In 2008, he ran for the Republican presidential nomination winning 11 states but ultimately losing to John McCain.
Romney’s has taken more hardline conservative positions on economic social issues while as a presidential candidate than he did as governor. This is hardly surprising given the liberal nature of Massachusetts and the fact that Republican Party has moved further to the right. On 30 May 2012 he received the requisite number of delegates to clinch the Republican nomination.
Paul Ryan is the Republican vice presidential nominee for the 2012 election. Ryan was born in 1970 in Janseville, Wisconsin. His family has deep roots in the area. In 1884 his great grandfather founded a construction business in Janeseville which still does business nationally today. When he was 16, he discovered the body of his father who had died from a heart attack.
Ryan went on to attend college at the University of Miami at Ohio. While in college, he developed a strong interest in the Austrian school of economics and other libertarian minded political figures such as Ayn Rand.
Ryan was involved with politics throughout college and took a job in Washington immediately after graduation. He rose quickly through the political ranks and in 1996 served as a speechwriter for Republican vice presidential nominee Jack Kemp. In 1998, at the age of 28, he was elected to Congress, representing the same district in which he’d grown up. In 2000 he married attorney Janna Little and the couple have three children.
During the Bush years Ryan voted for the creation of Medicare part D, the Bush tax cuts and the TARP bailout. He says supporting these deficit increasing plans made him “miserable.” He was also a vocal proponent of privatizing Social Security but the proposal failed to gain significant traction within the Bush administration.
In recent years, Ryan has emerged as a leading figure within the Republican Party. His goal was not only to criticize the Democratic majority in power, but to offer his own plans for reform. In 2008, Ryan released the first of his now famous budget proposals. It would make large-scale cuts to discretionary spending, turn Medicare into a voucher system and replace Medicaid with block grants to states.
Ryan’s “Roadmap for the Future” was praised within some conservative circles but was not widely embraced by the party establishment. However, his reputation within the party continued to grow and subsequent budget proposals garnered more and more support.
The 2010 midterm elections were especially transformational. Republicans took back the House and Ryan became chairman of the House Budget Committee. Congress was now stacked with a new wave of Tea Party Congressman who had the stomach for ambitious reforms. In April 2011, Ryan’s 2012 budget proposal passed the House with only four Republican nay notes.
Ryan is widely celebrated by Republicans as a bold reformer who’s willing to not simply criticize but propose substantive alternatives. Democrats have attacked Ryan as a fake deficit hawk. Pointing out that his budget plans call for large scale tax cuts that would be offset by getting rid of unspecified tax loopholes and deductions.