The Art of the Presidential Announcement, From Lincoln to Obama

PHOTO: Bill Clinton speaks on the final weekend of his campaign in Springfield, Ohio, Oct. 30, 1992.Getty Images
Bill Clinton speaks on the final weekend of his campaign in Springfield, Ohio, Oct. 30, 1992.

Presidential candidates have chosen a variety of different locations and forums throughout history to announce their intentions to run for the White House.

The kickoff to a presidential race traditionally consisted of an official public event filled with supporters. Most of them choose their hometowns, symbolic settings or government office to give their formal declaration for their candidacies.

Nowadays, candidates are more subtle. In a modern, media-frenzy society, potential candidates will be under intense scrutiny and faced with legal limitations on campaign funding. Therefore, one can’t be expected to make such an important decision until you “dip your toe in the water.”

This exact analogy is used in a Federal Election Commission document, referring to the breathing time prior to an official announcement for the candidates to gather information and “explore the feasibility of becoming a candidate,” while being out of the spotlight.

“From a very pragmatic standpoint, candidates would be viewed as foolish if they don’t take advantage of the opportunity to set up a super PAC to be able to coordinate during this period,” Sheila Krumholz, director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said in an interview with the Washington Post.

Declaring a run for the presidency is tricky business, an art form really, to strategically time the announcement that will maximize a candidate's preparation time without overwhelming public scrutiny and the constraints of campaign laws.

As the presidential announcement season for 2016 is fast approaching, here’s a look back through some of the more memorable ones in history:

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Election Year: 1860

Abraham Lincoln is widely regarded as one of the greatest American presidents. He started campaigning in 1860 but did not officially announced his candidacy until May 9 at the Illinois Republican State Convention at Decatur. As a self-taught lawyer and an anti-slavery supporter from Illinois, Lincoln would then go on to be a beloved, savvy leader during perhaps the darkest chapter of our country’s history.

PHOTO: President Abraham Lincoln. Getty Images
President Abraham Lincoln.

THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Election Year: 1912

Vice President Teddy Roosevelt became president in 1901 after William McKinley was assassinated, and served two terms. “My hat is in the ring,” Roosevelt said, announcing his third run in February 1912. Abandoning the Republican party after William Taft won the nomination, Roosevelt joined the newly formed Progressive party, known as the “Bull Moose” party.

PHOTO: Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, sitting at his desk working. Getty Images
Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, sitting at his desk working.

FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT

Election Year: 1932

A rising star in the Democratic party and New York governor, FDR wrote to the secretary of the State Central Democratic Committee in January, asking that his name be presented at the coming “primaries as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the Presidency.”

PHOTO: Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Topeka, Kansas on the 1932 campaign trail. Getty Images
Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Topeka, Kansas on the 1932 campaign trail.

DWIGHT EISENHOWER

Election Year: 1952

According to the book "Harry and Ike," Eisenhower announced his candidacy June of 1952 in his hometown of Abilene, Kansas, after Americans pushed the five-star general to get into politics for years. “I believe we can have peace with honor, reasonable security with national solvency,” Eisenhower said to a crowd of 50,000. “I believe in the future of the United States of America.”

JOHN F. KENNEDY

Election Year: 1960

Then a senator, JFK announced his candidacy in January for the most powerful office from the U.S. Senate Caucus Room saying, “In the past 40 months, I have toured every state in the Union and I have talked to Democrats in all walks of life. My candidacy is therefore based on the conviction that I can win both the nomination and the election.”

JIMMY CARTER

Election Year: 1976

Georgia Gov. Carter declared that he wanted to be the next president and he wanted to win the Democratic Party’s nomination at the Atlanta Civic Center in 1974, nearly two years before the general election. “I intend to win; I intend to be your next President,” Carter said.

PHOTO: U.S. President Jimmy Carter smiling at a podium in front of an American flag. Getty Images
U.S. President Jimmy Carter smiling at a podium in front of an American flag.

ROBERT F. KENNEDY

Election Year: 1968

Robert Kennedy, the brother of former President John F. Kennedy was appointed attorney general in 1960. Years after the assassination of JFK, he declared in March of 1968 his intention to run for president. Kennedy made his announcement in the Senate Caucus Room, where JFK had made his announcement 8 years earlier.

PHOTO: Senator Robert Kennedy speaking at an election rally, 1968. Getty Images
Senator Robert Kennedy speaking at an election rally, 1968.

GERALD FORD

Election Year: 1976

Richard Nixon resigned, leaving Vice President Ford with the most powerful elected office in the land. Ford announced his candidacy for his next term in June 1975 to reporters in the Oval Office at the White House.

PHOTO: Gerald Ford at a press conference, 1974. Getty Images
Gerald Ford at a press conference, 1974.

RONALD REAGAN

Election Year: 1980

A former actor, Reagan stepped in front of the screen again in 1979 to announce his bid for the White House. His announcement was televised in New York City, a notably private setting compared to that of other candidates.

GEORGE H.W. BUSH

Election Year: 1988

As vice president in the Reagan administration, George H.W. Bush announced his second presidential candidacy and continued to campaign throughout his vice presidency. During the week of his announcement in October of 1987, a Newsweek magazine issue came out with a cover photo with a headline that read “Fighting the Wimp Factor.”

PHOTO: George H. W. Bush at the White House in Washington, July 23, 1990. Getty Images
George H. W. Bush at the White House in Washington, July 23, 1990.

BILL CLINTON

Election Year: 1992

In a more unique setting, Bill Clinton announced his candidacy on the steps of the historic Old State House Museum in Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1991. Clinton would go on to win a second term in 1996, allowing him to preside over the longest peacetime economic expansion in our nation’s history.

GEORGE W. BUSH

Election Year: 2000

Texas Gov. Bush announced his candidacy June 1999 while on a three-day tour to early primary states New Hampshire and Iowa. “There's no turning back, and I intend to be the next President of the United States.” Bush said. “I'm running, and I'm running hard.”

PHOTO: George W. Bush holds a news conference at the White House in Washington, Jan. 12, 2009. Getty Images
George W. Bush holds a news conference at the White House in Washington, Jan. 12, 2009.

AL GORE

Election Year: 2000

Then-Vice President Al Gore officially launched his presidential campaign in his hometown of Carthage, Tennessee, in front of a crowd of 8,000. In light of the nation’s robust economy, his speech shifted the focus on strengthening the American family, “We must make family life work in America,” he said on June 16, 1999.

PHOTO: Al Gore waves as he walks past a row of flags at the start of the Commemoration Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in New York, April 21, 1999. Getty Images
Al Gore waves as he walks past a row of flags at the start of the Commemoration Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in New York, April 21, 1999.

JOHN EDWARDS

Election Year: 2008

In 2006, in his second try for the White House, Edwards took a different approach -- announcing his candidacy from the yard of a home in New Orleans that was being rebuilt after Hurricane Katrina. His unusual choice of location highlighted his concerns for this country’s growing economic disparity.

HILLARY CLINTON

Election Year: 2008

Clinton announced her candidacy on her official website in January of 2007 -- posting a web message -- or as she put it, “in to win.” Seated in a comfy, cozy living room setting, the former first lady declared she was “not just starting a campaign though, I’m beginning a conversation with you, with America.”

BARACK OBAMA

Election Year: 2008

Choosing to make his announcement in February 2007 in his home state of Illinois, then-Sen. Obama addressed a giant crowd, “And that is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.”

JOHN MCCAIN

Election Year: 2008

President Obama’s 2008 GOP opponent informally announced his candidacy in February 2007 during a live taping of the Late Show with David Letterman. Then two months later, the Arizona senator formally announced in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

MITT ROMNEY

Election Year: 2012

On a rather windy day on June 2011, surrounded by supporters and hay bales, Romney announced his second try for the presidency at Bittersweet Farm in Stratham, New Hampshire, to a crowd of supporters. According to a local paper, the farm has hosted many Republican rallies and events.

NEWT GINGRICH

Election Year: 2012

The former House Speaker made history by being the first major candidate during that election cycle to announce a run for the White House with a tweet May 2011. “I'm announcing my candidacy for President of the United States because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity,” Gingrich said in a Web video linked to the tweet.

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