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Are Campaign Announcements Happening Earlier?

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Now, it may seem way early to even begin thinking about who's running for president in 2020. That sentiment is not new, not even on this program.

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SUSAN STAMBERG, HOST:

Reporters and candidates' aides scramble on board a chartered airplane and fly off to campaign appearances in two states.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

That's former ALL THINGS CONSIDERED host Susan Stamberg.

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STAMBERG: And it's only the 1 of May. And this is only 1979, not 1980. Still the campaign is underway, officially, for at least one more candidate.

KELLY: And that candidate was George H.W. Bush.

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GEORGE BUSH: Leadership in the '80s must be based on a politics of substance not symbols.

KELLY: Now, it wasn't for another six months that the eventual winner joined in, a mere two months before the Iowa caucuses.

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RONALD REAGAN: I'm here tonight to announce my intention to seek the Republican nomination for president of the United States.

KELLY: That, of course, is Ronald Reagan.

CORNISH: Now to 2007 - the Democrats had won the House the year before, and there were a bunch of eager presidential wannabes.

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GEORGE W BUSH: The world is ready. America is ready. And I'm ready.

KELLY: January 7, then Senator Joe Biden released a video that showed him sitting in a cozy armchair next to a cozy fireplace.

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JOE BIDEN: But I need your help. I need your support to accomplish all this.

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HILLARY CLINTON: I'm not just starting a campaign, though. I'm beginning a conversation.

CORNISH: The first of many. Senator Hillary Clinton made her announcement on January 20, 2007. She's sitting on a floral-print couch.

KELLY: A newcomer entered the race a month later, freshman Senator Barack Obama. No fireplace, no comfy couch for him. He holds an outdoor rally in Illinois.

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BARACK OBAMA: Together, we can finish the work that needs to be done and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth. Thank you very much.

KELLY: So, to summarize, by Clinton, Obama, they all got into the race about a year before the first votes were cast in the Democratic primaries.

CORNISH: Now, early isn't always crucial. Sometimes it's just confusing.

KELLY: We're thinking of the Republican field in the last presidential election, the first to declare.

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TED CRUZ: I believe in the power of millions of courageous conservatives rising up to reignite the promise of America.

CORNISH: Ted Cruz in March 2015. After that...

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BEN CARSON: I'm Ben Carson, and I'm a candidate for president of the United States.

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MARCO RUBIO: But inspired by the promise of our future, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States.

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JEB BUSH: And I've decided I'm a candidate for president of the United States.

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JOHN KASICH: To announce that I'm running for president of the United States.

KELLY: By June 2015, 11 people were already in the race before Donald Trump rode down that gold escalator to launch his campaign.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And it's an honor to have everybody here. This is beyond anybody's expectations. There's been no crowd like this.

CORNISH: And 17 months later, he was the president-elect. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.