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Guide to 2016 Campaign: The Democrats

Lincoln Chafee, Hillary Clinton, Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders.

Editor's Note: This is part of a series of reports from VOA Learning English to guide you through the U.S. presidential campaign in 2016. This report centers on the candidates for the Democratic nomination. We tell you who they are and what their campaigns are saying. You can also learn more about the candidates with links to their campaign websites.

Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee is a former senator and governor of the small state of Rhode Island.

He became a senator after his father died suddenly in 1999. The governor at the time appointed Mr. Chafee to his father’s position in the Senate. Mr. Chaffee served there as a Republican.

Lincoln Chafee
Lincoln Chafee

Then Mr. Chaffee became governor of Rhode Island. He separated from the Republican Party and identified himself first as an independent – a member of no political party – and then as a Democrat. When he left his job as governor only 26% of voters said they approved of him.

Mr. Chaffee does not have a clear group of supporters among Democrats. He chose to announce his presidential run in the state of Virginia, instead of in his home state of Rhode Island.

As a senator, Mr. Chafee voted in 2002 against the Iraq War. He is using his opposition to the war as a selling point for his candidacy.

Experts give him no chance of winning the nomination.

He announced his candidacy on June 3, 2015.

Hillary Clinton

The 2016 election is Hillary Clinton’s second run for the White House. She lost in the Democratic primaries to Barack Obama in 2008. Ms. Clinton aims to become the country’s first female president.

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Hillary Rodham Clinton

Almost all Americans know who Hillary Clinton is. And a lot of people in her party like her. Many Democrats believe that 2016 is her chance to become president. Her strong position in the party means few other Democrats plan to challenge her.

Ms. Clinton is married to Bill Clinton, who was the U.S. president from 1993-2001. Their relationship both helps and hurts her efforts to become president herself.

Ms. Clinton, a lawyer, says her previous jobs as senator of New York and as U.S. secretary of state have prepared her to be president. She appeals to many women and younger voters. But she has already had a scandal for using her personal email account for government work. Opponents have also said Ms. Clinton did not deal well with a 2012 situation in Libya that involved the deaths of four Americans.

Ms. Clinton announced her candidacy on April 12, 2015.

Martin O’Malley

Martin O’Malley is a former governor of the state of Maryland and a former mayor of Baltimore, a city in Maryland. He also plays in a Celtic rock band.

Martin O'Malley
Martin O'Malley

Mr. O’Malley is not well known nationally. Experts say he does not have a chance to win the Democratic nomination unless the Hillary Clinton campaign suffers serious problems.

Mr. O’Malley has a record of supporting liberal issues. He hopes people wanting a fresher and younger face will give him their votes. And, he is trying to appeal to people in the working class – people who have middle or low incomes. But he does not have wide support.

Mr. O’Malley faces problems over recent protests in Baltimore because he was once the city’s mayor. The protests came after a young African-American man died while police detained him. But Baltimore residents said the protests were also about a history of poverty, conflicts with police and other issues in the city.

Mr. O’Malley announced his candidacy on May 30 2015.

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders is a U.S. senator from Vermont. He is an independent – in other words, he does not belong to an official party. However, he votes Democratic in the Senate and is running for the Democratic nomination for president. He calls himself a “democratic socialist.”

Bernie Sanders
Bernie Sanders

People from the most liberal end of the party support him. That support from the left gives Mr. Sanders the possibility of bringing in money by small-dollar fundraising. In other words, instead of a few wealthy people giving him a lot of money, many common people are likely to give him a little money.

Mr. Sanders has been in Congress since 1991. He served as a congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives before becoming a senator in 2007. He has strongly criticized the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the free-trade agreement that President Obama supports.

Mr. Sanders is 73, which would make him the oldest person sworn in as president if he is elected. While he seems to be a long shot for the nomination, he says he can win.

He announced his candidacy on April 30, 2015.

Jim Webb

Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb is a late addition to the group seeking the Democratic Party nomination for president. He is also generally more conservative than the other Democrats in the race.

Jim Webb
Jim Webb

The 69-year-old politician is from the state of Virginia. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War and has a strong military background. He served as Secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan, a Republican. Mr. Webb was a member of that party at the time. He joined the Democratic Party in 2006 when he sought, and won, election to the Senate. He did not seek re-election after his six-year term.

Some Democrats say Mr. Webb is not liberal enough. For example, he supports gun ownership and coal mining. He has some strong populist ideas. This could appeal to working-class white voters.

Jim Webb is also a successful writer of fiction and non-fiction. He attended the Naval Academy and Georgetown University where he received a law degree. Public opinion studies have found he is less popular than the other Democratic Party candidates.

He announced he is running on July 2, 2015.

I’m Anne Ball.

Anne Ball reported and wrote this guide for Learning English. Kelly J. Kelly was the editor.


Words in This Story

selling point –n. a quality or feature that makes people want to buy (or vote) for something, or someone

scandal – n. something that is shocking or upsetting because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong

left –n. people with liberal ideas

fundraising –n. activity done to collect money for a political party long-shot –n. someone who does not have a good chance of winning.

populist – adj. relating to a political party that claims to represent ordinary people

working-class adj. related to or suitable to the class of wage earners who make less money than professionals

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