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Best President Ever: 2016 Hopefuls Name Their Favorites

We asked the top 21 people who have expressed interest in being the next president who are their favorite presidents.
Image: President Ronald Reagan
President Ronald Reagan tries out his new desk in the Oval Office in the White House for photographers after viewing the inaugural parade from outside his new home, Jan. 20, 1981. AP file

Happy Presidents' Day!

Presidents' Day is mostly reserved as a day for celebrating the birthdays of two of America’s most beloved chief executives – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. But there have been 42 other presidents (if you count Grover Cleveland twice). So NBC News asked the top 21 people who have expressed interest in being the next president who are their favorite presidents. Of the 21 potential candidates (16 Republicans and five Democrats), five said they were going to pass on answering the question and ten didn't respond.

To be fair, the question is kinda tricky for Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Would Bush name both his dad and his brother? Or just his dad? Would Clinton name her husband? And would Biden mention his boss? Yeah, we get it. It's a tough one and this wasn't meant to be a game of gotcha - just a thought exercise.

But we did receive answers from five potential candidates: Gov. Scott Walker, Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Mike Huckabee and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

All the Republicans mentioned Ronald Reagan, which is no surprise given his prominence in modern-day Republican Party politics. President Calvin Coolidge got two votes, Paul and Jindal had the exact same responses and one Republican mentioned Democrat icon John F. Kennedy as one of his favorites.

Here are the answers (some gave explanations):

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz:

Ronald Reagan's moral clarity and vision inspired a revolution that expanded freedom, lifted millions to prosperity, liberated a continent, and won the Cold War without firing a shot.

George Washington had the strength to win our independence and defeat the mightiest army on earth, the fortitude to lead our new nation conceived in liberty, and the humility to voluntarily step down and ensure we remained a Republic.

James Madison — the architect of the Constitution -- had tremendous foresight in crafting a constitutional framework that recognized the limits of human governance and safeguarded the rights of the people for centuries to come.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul:

Calvin Coolidge because he balanced the budget

Ronald Reagan

Thomas Jefferson

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal:

Ronald Reagan for his Conservative principles, belief in American exceptionalism, and his ability to lead on a world stage.

Calvin Coolidge for his focus on limited government and growing America's economy

Thomas Jefferson for his role in writing the Declaration of Independence, completing the Louisiana Purchase and fighting for religious liberty.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (who answered after landing in Israel):

George Washington for his integrity and spiritual foundation.

John F. Kennedy for inspiring my generation to dream big and accept responsibility for America

Ronald Reagan for rekindling hope in the American dream

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker:

George Washington

Abraham Lincoln

Ronald Reagan

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders:

Thomas Jefferson was the primary author of one of the great visionary documents in modern history, the Declaration of Independence.

Abraham Lincoln's determination and political skills ended the abomination of slavery and preserved the United States of America as one country.

Franklin D. Roosevelt created jobs and economic security for millions of workers during the depression and had the courage to take on the powerful ruling class of his era.