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How The Republican Field Dwindled From 17 To Donald Trump

On March 23, 2015, Ted Cruz officially kicked off the Republican presidential primary by entering the race. “I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America,” Cruz told students in a speech at Liberty University.

On May 3, 2016, Cruz dropped out of the race, after getting the support of millions of voters — many of them conservative — but not enough to win it. The next day, John Kasich dropped out, too, leaving just one candidate in the GOP field: presumptive nominee Donald Trump, who entered the race on June 16, 2015.

In between Cruz’s speech and Kasich’s departure, 14 other candidates entered and exited the GOP race. Each time (with a few exceptions; sorry, Jim Gilmore) we marked the occasion with a profile of the candidate’s campaign. At each campaign’s start, we assessed its chances; when it ended, we looked back at what went wrong. Let’s rewind the wild 13-and-a-half months of the Republican presidential race:1

John Kasich (3.8 million votes)

Ted Cruz (7.3 million votes)

Marco Rubio (3.5 million votes)

Ben Carson (732,000 votes)

Jeb Bush (277,000 votes)

Jim Gilmore (3,000 votes)

  • Entered on July 29, 2015
  • Exited on Feb. 12, 2016

Chris Christie (57,000 votes)

Carly Fiorina (38,000 votes)

Rand Paul (65,000 votes)

Rick Santorum (17,000 votes)

Mike Huckabee (50,000 votes)

George Pataki (2,000 votes)

Lindsey Graham (6,000 votes)

Bobby Jindal (200 votes)

Scott Walker (no votes)

Rick Perry (no votes)


  1. All vote totals are according to The Green Papers, as of May 5, 2016, and are rounded to the nearest hundred thousand, thousand or hundred.

Carl Bialik was FiveThirtyEight’s lead writer for news.