With Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal's announcement that he is a candidate for President, the crowded Republican field expands to more than a dozen declared candidates. Meanwhile, two high profile names -- Governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Chris Christie of New Jersey--are still sitting on the sidelines.
Among the early leaders among the candidates are Jeb Bush, former two-term Governor of Florida, Dr. Ben Carson, an African American physician, U.S. Senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina); Rand Paul (Kentucky), Marco Rubio (Florida), and former Senator Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania). Former New York Governor George Pataki, a long shot, has joined the pack, and two other former Governors and 2012 presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, a Fox News TV personality, and Rick Perry are in the mix, as well.
Two of the Republican candidates will highlight their "real world" business experience. Real estate mogul and TV personality Donald Trump has instantly gained national attention, while Carly Fiorna, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, is the highest profile female Republican candidate. Dale Christensen, an entrepreneur and business professor, is among the dark horse candidates at this point.
Donald Trump describes himself as "the very definition of the American success story." A recent poll has him running second to Jeb Bush in New Hampshire. A graduate of the Wharton School of Finance, his first book, The Art of the Deal, is one of the most successful business books of all time. In 2013, he partnered Learning Annex founder Bill with invested in crowdfunding site FundAnything. A year later, he disassociated himself with the site, saying that it "took too much of my time." A Fortune magazine article reported that Trump invested little of his own money in projects on the crowdfunding site and that he failed to promote it actively. Trump is not your typical American success story, as he was born into great wealth -- his father, Fred, was a real estate tycoon New York City.
Carly Fiorina was an executive at AT&T and Lucent, before ascending to CEO of HP in 1999 when she became the first woman to lead one of the top 20 U.S. companies. Fiorina frequently discusses small business growth and lists tax reform, regulatory reform, and access to capital as three major issues for the next President.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, frontrunner Hillary Clinton declared she wanted to be "a small-business president" from the get-go. On the campaign trail, she frequently evokes memories of her father's small business and says it is "too hard" to start businesses today. She has outlined her four priorities for small businesses and entrepreneurs:
1. Cutting the red tape
2. Expanding access to capital, especially for female entrepreneurs
3. Providing tax relief for small businesses and simplifying the tax code
4. Expanding access to new markets
Over the next year and a half, we can expect to hear a lot of talk about small business growth. It will again be a top issue in the 2016 Presidential campaign. Although they will talk about entrepreneurship extensively, with a few exceptions most of the candidates are lifelong politicians with little experience in running a company. To date, Hillary Clinton has taken the populist route and focused on the trials of would-be entrepreneurs and made small business advocacy a cornerstone of her campaign. Yet, her career path has not been as an entrepreneur. It will be interesting to see how the experienced business people in the race will take advantage of their acumen and whether their efforts will gain traction among voters.