How Do the Candidates Compare to Past Presidents?

Written by FrontRunner

Throughout the history of our presidents, we’ve had 10 governors, 7 senators, 6 cabinet members, 5 vice presidents (not including 9 who assumed the presidency after the death or resignation of the president), 4 general officers, 2 house members, 1 president with no political or military experience (Donald Trump), and 0 mayors.


Despite this, we have three mayors right now: Pete Buttigieg, Bill de Blasio, and Wayne Messam. In addition to this, though there have been two former house member presidents, the last one was in 1880 yet we have 6 house member candidates: Beto O’Rourke, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, Eric Swalwell, Seth Moulton, and Tim Ryan. That’s a quarter of the Democratic field.

Senators are not much better off. Though Senators are often nominated, only two Senators have become president since 1960. Since then, there have been four governors and four vice presidents elected, however, two of those vice presidents took office after the death and resignation of two presidents.

Donald Trump’s win despite his lack of experience has also encouraged a couple of other inexperienced Democrats to run: Marianne Williamson, an author, and Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur.

At this time, the top five candidates from a few recent polls are Joe Biden, Vice President, Bernie Sanders, Senator, Elizabeth Warren, Senator, Pete Buttigieg, Mayor, and Kamala Harris, Senator.

Highest previous position of all U.S. presidents

President First took office Highest previous position
George Washington 1789 General
John Adams 1797 Vice President
Thomas Jefferson 1801 Vice President
James Madison 1809 Cabinet
James Monroe 1817 Cabinet
John Quincy Adams 1825 Cabinet
Andrew Jackson 1829 Senate
Martin Van Buren 1837 Vice President
William Henry Harrison 1841 Senate
John Tyler 1841 Vice President*
James K. Polk 1845 Governor
Zachary Taylor 1849 Major general
Millard Fillmore 1850 Vice President*
Franklin Pierce 1853 Senate
James Buchanan 1857 Cabinet
Abraham Lincoln 1861 House
Andrew Johnson 1865 Vice President*
Ulysses S. Grant 1869 General**
Rutherford B. Hayes 1877 Governor
James Garfield 1881 House
Chester Arthur 1881 Vice President*
Grover Cleveland 1885 Governor
Benjamin Harrison 1889 Senate
William McKinley 1897 Governor
Theodore Roosevelt 1901 Vice President*
William Howard Taft 1909 Cabinet
Woodrow Wilson 1913 Governor
Warren G. Harding 1921 Senate
Calvin Coolidge 1923 Vice President*
Herbert Hoover 1929 Cabinet
Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933 Governor
Harry S. Truman 1945 Vice President*
Dwight Eisenhower 1953 General
John F. Kennedy 1961 Senate
Lyndon B. Johnson 1963 Vice President*
Richard Nixon 1969 Vice President
Gerald Ford 1974 Vice President*
Jimmy Carter 1977 Governor
Ronald Reagan 1981 Governor
George Bush 1989 Vice President
Bill Clinton 1993 Governor
George W. Bush 2001 Governor
Barack Obama 2009 Senate
Donald Trump 2017 No political or military experience

Click here to read the full 5/23/19 article by Maggie Astore and Alicia Parlapiano from The New York Times.

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