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Gallery: Candidates Who Ran on Zero Experience Gallery: Candidates Who Ran on Zero Experience

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Homepage / Politics

Gallery: Candidates Who Ran on Zero Experience

(MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

photo of Julia Edwards
April 14, 2011

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this gallery incorrectly displayed President James Buchanan, who had served five terms in the House and more than one term in the Senate.

National Journal political forecaster Charlie Cook has called Donald Trump's possible presidential ambitions "a joke." 

In contrast to other potential contenders, Trump has never held political office. And to some, his focus on the sensational -- such as questioning President Obama's birthplace -- only underscores his amateur status. Now, Trump has announced that he'll declare his decision on running for the presidency on May 15 -- coincidentally also the date of the finale of his reality show The Celebrity Apprentice.

 

 But historically speaking, lacking of political experience hasn't always led to a laughable candidacy. Let's review some memorable candidates who chose to launch their political careers in the biggest race of them all. 

Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1877)

Gen. Ulysses Grant, the leader of the Union Army, never held a political office before assuming the presidency.

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933)

Herbert Hoover worked his way through a number of appointed -- but not elected -- positions during the course of World War I, including Secretary of Commerce. His work awarded him the Republican nomination in 1928.

Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961)

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower won the respect of the American people not in office, but in commanding U.S. troops in World War II.

Jesse Jackson, 1984 candidate

When civil-rights activist and Baptist minister the Rev. Jesse Jackson announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in 1983, he became the second African-American to seek the presidential nomination of a major party.

Wesley Clarke, 2004 candidate

Gen. Wesley Clarke, the NATO Supreme Allied Commander of Europe from 1997 to 2000 and author of Broken Engagement, sought the Democratic nomination.

Al Sharpton, 2004 candidate

The sharp-tongued civil rights activist made debates lively. But the Rev. Al Sharpton's 2004 campaign for the Democratic nomination was also fined $285,000 by the Federal Election Commission for fraudulent use of campaign funds.

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