Politics

Where Are They Now? Power Players in 1992 and 2016

Today’s leaders were still works in progress during Bill Clinton's inaugural run

Presumptive Democratic nominee Bill Clinton waves to supporters with his wife Hillary at a rally in St. Louis in July 1992. (TIM CLARY/AFP/Getty Images file photo)

Much has been made about the fact that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has remained in the public eye for a quarter century.  

Many of her closest allies — and a few of her fiercest antagonists — have followed similarly storied paths through modern political history.  

A brief recap of what key figures in this presidential contest were up to the first time a Clinton appeared at the top of a presidential ticket.

Joseph R. Biden Jr.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife Jill wave to the crowd at the Democratic convention Wednesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his wife Jill wave to the crowd at the Democratic convention Wednesday night. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992 : The career politician was already in his fourth term in the Senate, having survived the loss of his first wife and daughter in a car accident, a failed presidential bid (1988) and a bout with a near-fatal aneurysm.  

2016: After deciding last fall  against a presidential run, the former senior senator from Delaware/current two-term vice president Wednesday delivered a feisty farewell to the nation.

Bill Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton addresses the crowd in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pa., on the second day of the Democratic National Convention, July 26, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former President Bill Clinton addresses the convention Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992: The five-term governor of Arkansas was crisscrossing the country trying to convince voters that the ongoing recession (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) meant it was time fresh blood in the Oval Office. He would go on to defeat incumbent Republican President George H. W. Bush, securing his spot as the 42nd president of the United States.  

2016: During his eighth prime time address at a Democratic convention — a streak dating back to 1988 — the former president trumpeted his wife’s resilience, political savvy and passion for public service.

Hillary Clinton

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton joins President Barack Obama on stage after his speech to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton joins President Barack Obama on stage after his speech Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

1992: Appearing on NBC's "Today Show," the Yale-educated lawyer cum political spouse plays down expectations of serving in any official capacity in husband Bill’s prospective administration — “I’m not interested in any kind of paid position or cabinet position,” she told Katie Couric — but does highlight her experience advancing various policy priorities (children’s issues, health care, public education) while in the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion.  

2016: The former first lady/junior senator from New York/secretary of state becomes the first female presidential nominee put forward by a major political party.

Newt Gingrich

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich takes pictures with a guest at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich takes pictures with a guest at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992: The combative Georgia Republican had already helped topple Democratic Speaker Jim Wright and quickly developed a taste for authority as House Minority Whip. He was still months away from unveiling his definitive power play, the “Contract with America.”  

2016: The former speaker/architect of the divisive impeachment proceedings against President Bill Clinton became a Republican presidential hopeful in 2012 and actively campaigned until just a few weeks ago to become Trump’s vice presidential pick.

Trey Gowdy

South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, conducts a news conference in June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
South Carolina Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the Select Committee on Benghazi, conducts a news conference in June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

1992: The Palmetto State native graduated from the University of South Carolina Law School three years earlier. He was working at a prominent law firm.  

2016: The third-term lawmaker/tea party favorite devoted the past two years of his life to the House Select Committee on Benghazi. An inconclusive 800-page report drew fire from all sides.

Darrell Issa

Rep. Darrell Issa walks through the basement of the Capitol with a painting of fellow Californian former President Ronald Reagan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Rep. Darrell Issa walks through the basement of the Capitol with a painting of fellow Californian former President Ronald Reagan. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

1992: The Army veteran turned businessman was reaping the rewards of his iconic car alarm (“Viper”).  

2016: The eight-term lawmaker and former chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform spearheaded a congressional investigation into Hillary Clinton’s involvement in Benghazi. He continues to hammer the former cabinet secretary about her private email server.

Tim Kaine

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine and his wife Anne Holton acknowledge the crowd after Kaine addressed the convention Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine and his wife Anne Holton acknowledge the crowd after Kaine addressed the convention Wednesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992: The Harvard Law grad was splitting his time between teaching legal ethics at the University of Richmond law school and litigating cases concerning housing issues and disability-based discrimination. He was still two years away from entering public life on the Richmond City Council.  

2016: The former governor of Virginia and the Democratic National Committee chairman, and the current junior senator from Virginia Wednesday accepted the nomination to be the Democrat's vice presidential candidate.

Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center, talks with guests at the Republican convention last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, center, talks with guests at the Republican convention last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992: The former chief executive of Jefferson County was well into his second term in the Senate.  

2016: The six-term lawmaker failed to make Obama a “one-term president” (the goal he laid out in 2010) but he did become Senate majority leader in 2014 after Republicans reclaimed control of the chamber.

Barack Obama

President Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
President Barack Obama speaks at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

1992: One year out of Harvard Law School, the Hawaiian native was pursuing teaching opportunities (constitutional law) in Chicago.  

2016: The former community organizer and junior senator from Illinois, and the first black president in U.S. history Wednesday heaped praise on Democratic presidential nominee: “There has never been a man or woman more qualified — not Bill, not me, not anyone — than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America,” 44 assured the nation . She unsuccessfully challenged him for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and later served in his administration.

Mike Pence

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, running mate of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, addressed the GOP convention in Cleveland last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, running mate of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, addressed the GOP convention in Cleveland last week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992 : Following two unsuccessful congressional bids (1988, 1990), Pence put politics on the back burner and presided over the Indiana Policy Review Foundation, a conservative think tank.  

2016: The former six-term House lawmaker and current governor of Indiana on July 20 accepted the nomination to be the Republican vice presidential candidate

Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid speaks at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid speaks at the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

1992 : The two-term House lawmaker was finishing up his first term in the Senate and facing re-election.  

2016: The retiring Nevada Democrat on Wednesday chastised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for lining up behind “hateful con man Donald Trump.”

Paul D. Ryan

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan flashes a W sign at the Wisconsin delegation at the 2016 Republican National Convention last week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan flashes a W sign at the Wisconsin delegation at the 2016 Republican National Convention last week. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

1992: The 20-something Wisconsin native had just earned a political science degree from Miami University in Ohio.  

2016: The 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has continued to climb the ranks on Capitol Hill, reluctantly accepting the role of speaker in late 2015 after conservative hardliners rebelled against embattled leader John A. Boehner.

Bernie Sanders

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd at the Democratic convention Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the crowd at the Democratic convention Monday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

1992: Following his four-term stint as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, the unapologetic socialist unsuccessfully ran for Congress once (1988) before clinching the state's lone House seat the following election cycle.  

2016: The junior senator from Vermont challenged Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton to the very end, sparking a populist revolution that threatened to derail the Democratic convention and forced DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz from power.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for the presidency on July 21. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination for the presidency on July 21. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

1992: The real estate scion had sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection for two struggling Atlantic City ventures, made a cameo appearance (as himself, of course) in “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” and had filed a lawsuit against his former wife, Ivana, for violating a gag clause in their divorce settlement.   

2016: The political newcomer soundly defeats 16 GOP challengers during a bruising primary. He became the party's official standard-bearer July 21 in Cleveland.  

Contact Rojas at warrenrojas@rollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @WARojas .

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