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The Contenders | 16 for '16

This eight-part series reveals the humanity, the twists of fate and the surprising mistakes behind 16 of the most compelling and tumultuous presidential campaigns in modern history.

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WMHT | The Contenders - 16 for '16
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The Contenders - 16 for '16

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Chisholm/McCain − The Straight Talkers

See how being a straight talker in a presidential race had damaging consequences for both the first black, female Democratic candidate, the “unbought and unbossed” Shirley Chisholm, and Republican John McCain, a war hero dubbed a “maverick.”

Dean/Buchanan − The Flamethrowers

Learn about the outspoken doctor and five-term governor who became a force in Democratic politics and the equally outspoken conservative columnist and commentator who both ran for president hell-bent on restoring the America they thought was lost.

Dukakis/Romney −The Technocrats

Learn why successful governors of Massachusetts, Democrat Dukakis and Republican Romney, both competent contenders, were unprepared to combat the portraits their opponents painted of them and were unable to define themselves to the public.

Hart/Jackson −The Visionaries

Examine the stories of the charismatic Sen. Hart and Rev. Jackson, forward-leaning aspirants determined to tackle the biggest foreign policy and domestic issues of the day. Equal parts brain and brawn, both were ready to upend American politics.

Goldwater/Reagan – The Conservatives

Follow the political career of Barry Goldwater, whose conservatism ultimately sowed the seeds of Ronald Reagan’s entry into politics. Though they lost their presidential bids in ’64 and ’76, these influential Republicans, it’s said, won the future.

Goldwater/Nader – The Independents

Follow the third-party campaigns of H. Ross Perot, who in 1992 launched his campaign on a lark during a TV interview, and Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate whose candidacy in 2000 may have changed the course of history.

Ferraro/Palin – The Trailblazers

Trace Geraldine Ferraro’s entrance onto the world stage in 1984 as the first woman on a major party presidential ticket. In 2008, Sarah Palin added energy and excitement to John McCain’s campaign. See how both women fought to break the glass ceiling.

Bush/Obama – The Master Strategists

Examine the campaign strategies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, candidates at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both beat out serious big-ticket contenders with pitch-perfect messaging and careful and calculated campaign strategy.