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For the last eight years, the iPhone has existed, Kim Kardashian has been famous, Pluto hasn’t been a planet, and Mitt Romney’s (mostly) been running for president.
Romney announced his first bid to be leader of the free world on February 13, 2007, at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich. Back then, the Indianapolis Colts had just won the Super Bowl, “Dreamgirls” was getting Oscar buzz and about half of NBC/WSJ poll respondents said they didn’t know who Mitt Romney was.
Now, after two failed attempts to reach the White House, Romney is considering a third try, while other contenders are eyeing the job – and what it takes to get it – for the first time.
Here’s what some of Romney’s potential 2016 rivals were up to back in early 2007:
Joe Biden, running for president but stumbling out of the gate: Joe Biden had announced his official run for president on January 31 – and he was already apologizing for something. Biden had to issue a regretful statement after referring to Barack Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Also serving as the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman at the time, Biden hoped to run as the race’s expert on Iraq.
Jeb Bush, a newly-former governor adapting to civilian life: After eight years at the state’s helm, Bush had just said goodbye to his job as Florida’s governor in 2007. By spring of that year, he had moved to what the Miami Herald described at the time as a “tony Coral Gables condo,” joined the board of Tenet Healthcare for a cool $65,000 annual payment and traveled to Brazil to promote ethanol use. Fun fact: In April 2007, Romney floated the elder Bush brother as a potential running mate, along with Mark Sanford (yes, that one), Jim DeMint and Newt Gingrich.
Ben Carson, neurosurgeon and keynote speaker: Carson was already nationally famous as a pediatric neurosurgeon who’d successfully separated Siamese twins linked at the brain. In inspirational addresses and awards ceremonies, Carson described his hard-scrabble childhood as a poor black kid in Detroit as he urged students to “aim high.” By 2007, his Carson Scholars Fund had rewarded more than 2,000 students with $1,000 college scholarships.
Chris Christie, a U.S. attorney building a reputation: Christie, a U.S. attorney, had just ruled out a bid for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Frank Lautenberg (but he was staying coy about his eventual run for governor in 2009.) In early 2007, he was busily burnishing his reputation as a corruption-buster and handing out subpoenas to members of the state Legislature and to the governor’s office as part of a probe into state budgeting practices.
Hillary Clinton, a candidate already taking friendly fire: Clinton, who announced her own presidential bid on January 20, 2007, was already on the road making her case to voters when Romney made his run official, and she was running into some early headaches. In New Hampshire that week, a voter harangued her for not recanting her 2003 vote to authorize the Iraq War. Barack Obama, who had announced two days before Romney, was already exploiting the issue too, telling the AP “I know that she's stated that she thinks the war should end by the start of the next president's first term. Beyond that, though, how she wants to accomplish that, I'm not clear on."
Ted Cruz, a state solicitor general arguing before the high court: Then the solicitor general of Texas, Cruz in early 2007 argued for the state in a Supreme Court case challenging a death sentence for a 1991 murder. Cruz, then 36, had just been named one of the “Fab Fifty” lawyers to watch by American Lawyer magazine. By May, he was battling with the Bush administration over another death row controversy – this time over whether the president overstepped his authority by requiring the court to comply with an international review of a Mexican national’s case. (Cruz’s side ultimately won.)
Mike Huckabee, a former gov off and running for president: Unlike many of the other 2016 GOP hopefuls, Mike Huckabee was in the throes of his own 2008 run when Mitt Romney strode onstage in Dearborn. He’d announced just two weeks earlier (on NBC’s Meet the Press!) – and was busily stumping with a focus on his faith, the fight against “Islamic fascism” and the need to promote healthy living (remember that?) But, with low name recognition nationally, some Republicans were quietly suggesting he’d be better off dropping his White House hopes and running for Senate against Democrat Mark Pryor.
Bobby Jindal, a congressman considered nearly a governor-in-waiting: Early 2007 was a busy time for then-Rep. Bobby Jindal, who announced on January 22 that he was ready for a rematch against Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Blanco beat Jindal in 2003 but faced criticism in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the congressman was considered the early favorite to unseat her. Like Rubio, he had recently cleared age 35.
John Kasich, a Fox News host eyeing the governor’s mansion: Kasich, a veteran congressman, was already an ex-presidential candidate by 2007, thanks to an unsuccessful run for the GOP nod in 2000. He had his own Saturday night TV show on the Fox News Channel but wasn’t shy about his willingness to drop the lucrative contract if called upon for a gubernatorial run against incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland. "I've made it clear to people that I'm going to look at the governor's office,” he said in February 2007. “I hope that Ted Strickland will do a good job so I won't have to go around the state doing this stuff." He ended up running – and winning – in 2010.
Rand Paul, a physician gearing up to stump… for dad: The Bowling Green ophthalmologist and son of an about-to-declare presidential candidate was no stranger to politics, although he was still a few years away from his own 2010 U.S. Senate bid. But he was clearly thinking about his future career in politics, writing in an August 2006 opinion piece that he mused about “what I'd do if I were president or governor.” (In the piece, he suggested that the scandal-plagued Gov. Ernie Fletcher should have pardoned himself.)
Rick Perry, a Texas governor facing some conservative blowback: The longest-serving governor in Texas history, Perry was busy doing the same job back in 2007 that he’s just wrapping up now. He’d just been sworn in for a third time and – the very week of Romney’s 2007 announcement – was already embroiled in controversy over his executive order requiring the vaccination of sixth-grade girls against HPV.
Marco Rubio, a Speaker of the Florida House with big ambitions: In February 2007, Rubio – 35 -- was barely old enough to be president, but admirers were already being quoted describing him as White House material. First elected to the Florida House in 1999, he became the second-youngest House speaker in Florida history after the 2006 elections. He was getting national buzz for his book “100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future” – and he was regularly chatting about policy issues with mentor Jeb Bush, telling the St. Petersburg Times that the former gov was “a huge influence, probably as much as anybody.”
Rick Santorum, a defeated senator putting the pieces back together: The beginning of 2007 wasn’t the best of times for Rick Santorum. He’d just been ousted from his Pennsylvania Senate seat, and it wasn’t pretty; he lost by an ugly 18 points. In March, he joined national law firm of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, LLC. POLITICO observed at the time that the firm helped fund his defeat, giving almost $20,000 to Democratic challenger Bob Casey.
Scott Walker, a county executive waiting for another statewide run: Serving as Milwaukee County executive, Scott Walker spent spring of 2007 entrenched in issues like commuter rail funding, the construction of an engineering campus in Wauwatosa, and offering “American Idol” host Simon Cowell free passes to the local zoo to see his namesake tiny primate. (No, I am not making this up.) But he wasn’t far off from another gubernatorial campaign; he’d actually been pursuing the gig the previous year but stepped aside in March 2006 to make way for then-Rep. Mark Green’s challenge to incumbent Gov. Jim Doyle.
Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard professor with Hill cred: Warren was years away from her Senate run, but she was getting to be a familiar name on Capitol Hill – as a star witness on banking and economic issues. The oft-quoted Harvard law professor appeared before congressional committees several times in early 2007 to discuss policy – including helping to lead the crusade against credit card and mortgage debt. Then-Banking Chairman and presidential contender Sen. Chris Dodd cited her as an ally in his efforts to address high fees on middle class borrowers.