Special Report

Each President’s Path to the Oval Office

President Bill Clinton
Source: Wikimedia Commons

William J. Clinton (1946-present)
> Term: 1993-2001
> Party affiliation: Democratic
> Notable occupation: Governor

Bill Clinton showed a zeal for politics while he attended high school in Arkansas. He became a rising political star after losing a close race for a House seat in 1974. He became state attorney general two years later, then, in 1978, he was elected governor at age 32. His reform image and oratorical skills gained him national standing. Clinton also represented a generational shift in national politics. In a three-way race in 1992, Clinton defeated incumbent President Bush to become the 42nd president.

Source: Pool / Getty Images

George W. Bush (1946-present)
> Term: 2001-2009
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Businessman, governor

George W. Bush was born into a family dedicated to public service. His grandfather, Prescott, was a senator, and his father, George H.W., was the 41st president of the United States. After college at Yale, George W. got into the oil business like his father. He shifted into politics in 1978 and lost his first race for a seat in the House of Representatives. He would not run for office until his father left politics. He ran against incumbent Governor Ann Richards and upset her in 1993. As governor, Bush backed efforts to raise education levels for Texas children, and that gained him national attention that propelled him to the presidency.

Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images

Barack Obama (1961-present)
> Term: 2009-2017
> Party affiliation: Democratic
> Notable occupation: Lawyer, senator

Barack Obama’s journey to the White House as the nation’s first African-American president was a remarkable one. He was the first African-American president of the Harvard Law Review. Obama began his political career in 1996, when he was elected Illinois state senator and was re-elected twice. He was elected as U.S. senator in 2004. Obama announced his campaign to run for president in late 2007, and he easily defeated John McCain in the 2008 election.

Source: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Donald J. Trump (1946-present)
> Term: 2017-present
> Party affiliation: Republican
> Notable occupation: Businessman

Donald J. Trump was raised in a family that expected high achievements. His father Fred was a real estate developer, and his sister Maryanne became a federal court judge. Trump boosted the family name through relentless salesmanship and courted the front pages of New York tabloids. After several half-hearted attempts at running for president, Trump leveraged his real estate notoriety and fame as a reality television show host to mount a presidential campaign in 2016 that overcame a host of Republican challengers and upset Hillary Clinton in the election.