The finish line after what has seemed like an impossibly long election cycle is approaching. Before the final votes are counted, we should take a moment to recall the important and memorable moments that have led up to November 8.
It started in spring of 2015 when Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, announced his candidacy on March 23. Rand Paul, Republican senator from Kentucky, entered the race on April 7, followed by Democrat Hillary Clinton on April 12, Republican Marco Rubio on April 15 and Bernie Sanders, self-described Democratic Socialist, on the April 30.
A few additional candidates entered the race in May and June, such as Republican Carly Fiorina, Republican Jeb Bush and Democrat Martin O’Malley.
And then, on June 16, 2015, businessman and reality TV host Donald Trump entered the Republican race. Although some Americans may not have known it yet, this was a defining moment in this year’s election.
At this point, all Democratic candidates were in, but the Republican field continued to grow.
By the first Republican debate on Thursday, August 6, there were seventeen Republican candidates. The crowded field was unprecedented in recent history.
The 10 leaders debated in the “primetime” slot at 9 p.m., while the other seven were relegated to the earlier, 5 p.m. stage.
The debate, which aired on Fox News, set the tone for much of what was to come. Megyn Kelly, Fox journalist and commentator, questioned Trump’s degrading comments about women, an issue that Trump spun to be about the evils of political correctness.
Bush defended his candidacy against the notion that “another Bush in the White House” would be bad for the country, stating that he was proud of his father and brother but that he was his own man with his own track record and experience.
Trump led the field at the end of this debate, followed by Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.
The second Republican primary debate aired on CNN on September 16 and featured 11 candidates on the primetime stage, with four in the earlier debate. Trump’s insults continued to take center stage.
Just a few days later on September 21, Scott Walker became the first major Republican candidate to leave the race. He was the only candidate to drop out before the third debate aired on CNBC.
The field then slowly winnowed down until only five remained in February 2016: Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Carson. By March, the field was down to four: Carson dropped out of the race on March 4 and endorsed Trump soon after.
The Democratic debates did not start quite as early. The first one featured five candidates and aired on CNN on October 13, 2015. By the second debate a month later, only Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley remained.
O’Malley would drop out after a poor performance in the Iowa Caucus in February 2016, leaving only Clinton and Sanders to duke it out in the last five debates.
Topics of discussion for the 10 democratic debates included water contamination in Flint, Michigan, race relations, income inequality, affordable higher education and Hillary Clinton’s emails.
As the debates continued, primary and caucus results began to roll in. Iowa saw a three-point victory for Cruz and a narrow win for Clinton, by 0.3, according to U.S. Presidential Election News.
Sanders won surprising upsets in states like Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan, and the race became closer than many had anticipated. But in the end, Clinton won with 2,807 combined pledged and unpledged delegates, while Sanders lost with 1,893.
Just one day before the Democratic National Convention, Democratic Party Chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned over leaked emails that showed favoritism towards Clinton over Sanders.
Nevertheless, on July 28, 2016, Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination and became the first female presidential nominee in United States history.
While Sanders supporters were deeply disappointed in the results, many have noted that he shaped the conversation in the Democratic primary and nudged Clinton’s platform to the left in areas like free college education and income inequality.
The Republican race for the nomination had more contenders until much later in the game, although Trump’s victory was decisive: according to Bloomberg, Trump clinched the presumptive nomination with 1,543 delegates; Cruz came in a distant second with 559, with Rubio and Kasich trailing at 165 and 161 delegates, respectively.
In a move that NPR called “unprecedented,” Rubio attempted to keep his delegates after withdrawing from the race in March.
The move was an attempt to keep Trump from reaching the required 1,237 delegates he needed to secure the nomination. But the “Never Trump” crowd was ultimately unsuccessful in keeping Trump from the nomination.
After weeks as the presumptive nominee, Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination at the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016.
At the NBC Commander-In-Chief Forum at the beginning of September, the two nominees each answered questions one after the other without confronting each other onstage.
The two would not appear on the same stage at the same time until the first general-election debate on Sept. 26.
The rest is recent history. Mike Pence and Tim Kaine, vice presidential candidates for Trump and Clinton respectively, debated on Oct. 4.
The second presidential debate on Oct. 9 followed a town-hall format; the debate came just two days after a tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women was made public.
The final debate was on Wednesday, October 19, leaving just a few weeks until election day. Most recently, the F.B.I. re-opened the closed investigation into Clinton’s private emails, as some threads discovered on former New York Senator Anthony Weiner’s computer may be relevant to that investigation.
Early voting ends today; for many observers, the results cannot come soon enough so that the country can move forward from this lengthy election cycle.
Sources used for this article are NPR, AOL, US Presidential Election News, CNN Politics, Bloomberg and BallotPedia.