Teachable Instant: Latest Presidential Candidates

May 3, 2015

Students dip into the 2016 presidential race with a brief look at the two latest contenders to announce: Senators Marco Rubio and Bernie Sanders.


Ask students what news they’ve heard about the 2016 presidential election. Who is running? 

Tell students that today we’ll take a quick look at the two most recent Democratic and Republican candidates to enter the 2016 presidential race: Senator Bernie Sanders, a Democrat from Vermont, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida.

Elicit or explain that each of the two major political parties goes through a separate process to choose its candidate for president. These candidates set up committees, raise money, hold debates and engage in party primary elections well before the actual nominating conventions in the summer of 2016. Smaller parties usually skip the primaries and choose their candidates at a national convention.

Read the following out loud or print it out and have students read individually.

Bernie Sanders

"We can’t continue having a nation in which we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major nation on Earth, at the same time as we’re seeing a proliferation of millionaires and billionaires."
- Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont) announcing his presidential candidacy on April 30, 2015


On April 30, 2015, Senator Bernie Sanders became the second candidate (joining Hillary Clinton) in the race for the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency. Officially, Bernie Sanders is an independent, but he aligns himself with the Democratic Party in his Senate functions.  Sanders defines himself as a "democratic socialist," and much of his political focus has been on improving conditions for poor people and working people. The issues he will campaign on include:

  • the huge and widening wealth gap in the U.S.

  • the influence of corporations and big money on the political process

  • action to reduce carbon emissions and slow climate change

  • rebuilding the country's infrastructure--roads, bridges, mass transit, water systems, etc.

  • insuring healthcare as a right of all Americans

  • raising the minimum wage

  • making college affordable for everyone

Marco Rubio

"If we reform our tax code, reduce regulations, control spending, modernize our immigration laws and repeal and replace Obamacare, the American people will create millions of better-paying modern jobs."
- Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida), announcing his presidential candidacy on April 13, 2015

On the Republican side, Senator Marco Rubio is the latest candidate announce. He joins Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz in the race. While the Democratic race is likely to feature an early favorite (Clinton) and several other candidates who are underdogs, the Republican race might well have six or more candidates with nearly equal popularity.

Senator Rubio is popular in his party because of his conservative politics, youthful energy and hard-line positions on foreign policy. As a son of Cuban immigrants, Rubio has used the theme of the "American Dream" to appeal to voters.

Key issues for Senator Rubio include:

  • opposition to President Obama's proposed nuclear weapons agreement with Iran

  • reducing the corporate income tax

  • cutting other taxes, greatly reducing the size of the federal budget

  • the right of states to decide the issue of same-sex marriage

  • banning abortion after 20 weeks

  • repealing Obamacare

  • giving college applicants more information in order to evaluate choices

  • securing the borders against undocumented immigrants, increase enforcement, and requiring undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for at least 10 years to pay a fine, go through a background check, and learn English before gaining citizenship

For Discussion

  1. For years liberal politicians have avoided using the word "socialism" for fear of appearing too extreme for many Americans. Does identifying himself as a socialist doom Bernie Sanders' candidacy?

  2. Bernie Sanders favors raising the minimum wage and providing free health care to everyone. If you were running his campaign, how would you get low wage workers (who vote in small numbers) to register and vote for him?

  3. Senator Rubio is the son of Cuban immigrants and speaks fluent Spanish, but has taken a strict stance on enabling undocumented immigrants to become citizens. Will he be able to draw Latino voters away from the Democratic Party?

  4. If the Republican primary race turns out to be a very competitive one, does that help or hurt the Republican candidate in the general election?

  5. Which is better - to vote for the candidate you think would make the best decisions, or vote for the one you think is most likely to win?


https://marcorubio.com/category/issues/ (no longer active)