When the Race for President Begins

A Look at When White House Hopefuls Have Launched Their Campaigns

Donald Trump Hillary Clinton Debate
Scott Olson/Getty Images

If it seems like presidential campaigns begin the minute one election ends, you're not too far off. Candidates for president announce their campaigns well in advance of election year and often times begin laying the groundwork for the race years in advance.

But how early do modern presidential candidates actually launch their campaigns?

Related: Date of the 2016 Presidential Election

We can learn a thing or two from when presidential candidates have made their decisions in the recent past.

So let's examine how early presidential hopefuls who were successful in winning their party nominations launched their campaigns.

We'll look at races where there was no incumbent, which will be the case in the 2016 election because President Barack Obama is serving his second and final term in the White House.

Related: Why Presidents Can Serve Only 2 Terms

In the four most recent presidential elections in which there was no incumbent on the ballot, the eight candidates who won their party's nomination and ran in the general election launched their campaigns an average of 531 days before the election took place.

That's about one year and seven months before the presidential election.

If candidates follow that pattern, they typically will begin announcing campaigns in the spring of the year before the presidential election.

Here's a list of when the eight most recent presidential nominees have announced their candidacies in years when there was no incumbent seeking re-election to the White House.

 

2016 Presidential Campaign

The 2016 presidential election is being held on Nov. 8, 2016. There was no incumbent because President Barack Obama was finishing his second and final term

The Republican nominee, reality-television star and billionaire real-estate developer Donald Trump, announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015, 513 days or one year and nearly five months before the election.

Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. senator who served as secretary of the Department of State under Obama, announced her presidential campaign on April 12, 2015, 577 days or one year and seven months before the election.

2008 Presidential Campaign

The 2008 presidential election was held on Nov. 4, 2008. There was no incumbent because President George W. Bush was serving his second and final term.

Democrat Obama, the eventual victor, announced he was seeking his party's nomination for the presidency on Feb. 10, 2007, 633 days or one year, 8 months and 25 days before the election.

RelatedWhen Are Vice Presidential Candidates Chosen?

Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain announced his intentions to seek his party's presidential nomination on April 25 of 2007, 559 days or one year, six months and 10 days before the election.

2000 Presidential Campaign

The 2000 presidential election was held on Nov. 7, 2000. There was no incumbent because President Bill Clinton was serving his second and final term.

Republican George W. Bush, the eventual winner, announced he was seeking his party's presidential nomination on June 12, 1999, 514 days or one year, four months and 26 days before the election.

Democrat Al Gore, the vice president, announced he was seeking the party's nomination for presidency on June 16, 1999, 501 days or one year, four months and 22 days before the election.

1988 Presidential Campaign

The 1988 presidential election was held on Nov. 8, 1988. There was no incumbent because President Ronald Reagan was serving his second and final term.

Republican George H.W. Bush, who was vice president at the time, announced he was seeking the party's presidential nomination on Oct. 13, 1987, 392 days or one year and 26 days before the election.

Democrat Michael Dukakis announced he was seeking his party's presidential nomination on April 29, 1987, 559 days or one year, six months and 10 days before the election.