03.23.11

Rand Paul and Other Rookies in the Presidential Race

Less than three months into his first elected office, the Kentucky senator is making noises about running for president. From Abraham Lincoln to Herbert Hoover and Jesse Jackson (but not President Obama), see more candidates who took the least time to go from their first electoral victory—if they even had one—to vying for the presidency.

Though fresh to the national political stage, Sen. Rand Paul has already shown his father’s flair for grabbing the spotlight. So when he hinted that he might follow in Rep. Ron Paul’s footsteps by running for president, eyebrows across the country were raised.

Gallery: Rookie Presidential Candidates

But could Paul the younger be serious? After all, when the Republican and trained ophthalmologist won his seat representing Kentucky in November 2010, it was the first elected office he’d ever held—he hadn’t even been on a local school board or city council. And now, three months into his first term in office, he told listeners in South Carolina—a key early primary state—that he was planning visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, too. “The only decision I've made is I won't run against my dad,” he said, according to The Post and Courier.

That prompted some, such as National Journal’s Elspeth Reeve, to compare Paul to President Barack Obama, who was mocked by some for his inexperience when he announced in 2007 that he would run for the Democratic nomination in 2008, less than three years into his first Senate term. But not only did Obama serve four years total in the Senate, twice as long as Paul will have by the time the election rolls around, he served in the Illinois state Senate from 1997 to 2005.

While Obama’s résumé pre-Oval Office is still thinner than presidents from Thomas Jefferson to George H.W. Bush, a slew of other presidential contenders who ran for the nation’s top office with significantly less experience under their belts than Paul has. Obama can’t even make the list of the contenders who took the least time to go from their first electoral victory—if they even had one—to vying for the presidency.

David Graham is a reporter for Newsweek covering politics, national affairs, and business. His writing has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal and The National in Abu Dhabi.