There are 19 public figures running for president.
Fourteen of them are Republicans; five are Democrats. And all of them have announced in the past four months.
This election cycle has more contenders than usual, and their numbers are still growing: Two candidates on the Republican side—John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin, both governors—plan to announce this month. And the Democrats could see their own addition if Vice President Joe Biden decides to run. His entry would bring the total number of presidential candidates up to 22—22!—still well over a year before the general election.
The sheer numbers got us thinking: How many candidates were running for president at this point in time in past presidential cycles? Take a look below at how the fields developed during the 2012, 2008, and 2004 primary campaigns. Note: Some of the candidates below are longer shots than others. We tried to limit our list to those with at least a semi-national profile and/or who participated in their parties' respective debates. Apologies to the hundreds of Americans who've filed their candidacies without fanfare or favor in past years.
BY JULY 6, 2011:
By early July, the cast of GOP characters looking to trounce incumbent Barack Obama had grown to nine, and they'd all gotten a later start compared with contenders in the current primary campaign. Former New Mexico governor and long-shot candidate Gary Johnson got the ball rolling with his announcement in late April 2007, and he was soon joined by Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Tim Pawlenty in May; and Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann, and Jon Huntsman in June.
Several of those candidates had already participated in at least one of two GOP primary debates by the time the Fourth of July rolled around, with Cain wowing Republican voters during the first. (To be fair, few major candidates actually made it to that debate.)
Other long shots—such as former congressman Thaddeus McCotter and former Louisiana governor Buddy Roemer—also joined the pack, and Rick Perry would become the last candidate to enter the race with his announcement in mid-August.
BY JULY 6, 2007:
2008 saw a long primary campaign for both parties. Candidates on both sides formed exploratory committees well ahead of their official announcements, and former Alaska Democratic senator Mike Gravel filed candidacy papers with the FEC way back in April 2006.
By the first primary debates in late spring, the field boasted 18 candidates. By the end of April, the Republican side saw announcements from Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, former congressman Tom Tancredo, former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson, John McCain, and former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore.
The Democratic bench was similarly full: Gravel, Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, and Bill Richardson were all in by the end of May. The Democrats had a couple early dropouts as well: Tom Vilsack entered the race early, but departed by February 2007. And Evan Bayh explored a bid for just two weeks before abandoning his presidential hopes.
BY JULY 6, 2003:
Ten Democrats vied for their party's nomination the last time a Bush was in the White House, but by mid-summer 2003, the field was still taking shape. Though Howard Dean formed an exploratory committee in May 2002—well ahead of any other candidate—he wouldn't formally announce his candidacy until June 2003. By then, Al Sharpton, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, and Bob Graham were in the race, but the rest of the summer was fairly quiet.
Several Democrats had formed exploratory committees by late spring—Dennis Kucinich, Carol Moseley-Braun, John Edwards, and John Kerry—but waited until the fall for formal announcements. And Wesley Clark, the one-time NATO commander, was the last to announce, in September, after a months-long drafting effort.
"This is what my expertise, my leadership experience, my whole career has pointed and prepared me for," Clark said at his announcement. Like eight of his fellow candidates, he'd withdraw a few months later.
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.