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It's President’s Day, less than a year away from the first votes being cast in the 2016 presidential race and just one major candidate has announced his intention to formally launch a campaign through an exploratory committee. At this point eight years ago (the last time there was a pending vacancy in the Oval Office), most candidates had either already announced or were days away from making their grand entrances into the presidential contest.
Just look at what the political landscape looked like by President’s Day weekend in 2007.
- Mike Gravel announced in April 2006
- Tom Vilsack (currently U.S. Agriculture Secretary) launched his candidacy in Nov. 2006
- Dennis Kucinich announced in Dec. 2006
- John Edwards announced in Dec. 2006
- Chris Dodd announced on Jan. 11, 2007
- Hillary Clinton announced on Jan. 20
- Bill Richardson announced on Jan. 21
- Joe Biden announced on Jan. 31
- Barack Obama announced on Feb. 10
- Tom Vilsack was preparing to withdraw the next week to endorse Hillary Clinton.
- Duncan Hunter announced on Oct. 30
- Sam Brownback announced on Jan. 20
- Mike Huckabee announced on Meet the Press Jan. 28
- Mitt Romney announced on Feb. 13
- Rudy Giuliani confirms his candidacy on Feb. 14
- John McCain was preparing to announce on David Letterman on Feb. 28
In fact, many of the candidates listed above officially launched exploratory committees well before their formal and ceremonial announcements.
This year, Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is the only major candidate to say he is launching an exploratory committee (technically there are 165 federally registered 2016 candidates).
“Whether people are formally declared—or not—isn't the whole story here, they’re running anyway”
Despite the formal announcements, staffs are growing, donors are being locked down, and book tours and trips to Iowa and New Hampshire are increasing. A glance at the speakers at the Republican cattle calls last month—or the one coming up in March— will show a list of “likely” candidates giving policy speeches and openly working to build support.
Instead of creating the exploratory committees, these “likely” candidates have launched their own fundraising groups that allow them spend money for political activities. Out of the major candidates, 15 potential republicans and two democratic candidates have announced forming these Leadership PACs or 527s.
University of Maryland Government and Politics Professor David Karol studies elections and agrees this election cycle is developing slower than previous years, but warns that’s not the entire picture.
“Whether people are formally declared—or not—isn't the whole story here, they’re running anyway,” Karol explained to NBC News.
“I think if Jeb [Bush] is going around making speeches on key issues, getting reported on by you guys, talking to Republicans in key states, then” Karol continued, “he’s out there and people know he’s out there.”
Video edited and produced by NBC's Shaquille Brewster.