How Smart are the 2012 Presidential Candidates?


Get primed for the presidential election by seeing what degrees have helped shape the leading candidates.

By Tony Moton    

With the 2012 presidential election campaign in full swing, the scrutiny of candidates and their backgrounds could separate the contenders from the pretenders.

As voters decide which presidential hopeful they want to lead their country, candidates must combat a myriad of tough questions during debates.

To borrow the title of the popular TV quiz show, one such question might be: "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?"

Surprisingly, the qualifications to run for president - as stated in the U.S. Constitution - include no mention of educational requirements, according to the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), which provides official information from all three branches of federal government.

But we, the people, do take the candidates' schooling into account at election time.

"I would say a degree is probably a prerequisite nowadays," says University of Iowa's Cary Covington, an associate professor of political science who specializes in presidential politics. "It would be hard seeing someone without a college degree running for president."

In fact, Harry S. Truman is the only president in the 20th and 21st centuries who did not earn a college degree, according to the White House website.

But why has earning a college degree become a staple for aspiring presidents?

"In a way, it's a credential and shows people you have demonstrated a seriousness of purpose," Covington says. "It's one thing to say, 'I'm smart,' and another to have the external validation of a degree."

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The leading presidential candidates in 2012 - including incumbent Barack Obama - have earned college degrees. Here's a closer look at how their higher education might have influenced their political aspirations.

Republican Candidate #1 - MITT ROMNEY

(Christopher Halloran /

Full Name: Willard Mitt Romney
Date of Birth: March 12, 1947
Birthplace: Detroit, Mich.
Home: Belmont, Mass.
Notable: Former Governor of Massachusetts
Degrees: Bachelor's in English, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 1971; Master's of business administration (MBA), Harvard Business School, Cambridge, Mass., 1975; Doctorate of law (JD), Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass., 1975
Did You Know: Romney first met his wife, Ann Lois Davies, when he was in elementary school. How did he get her attention? He threw pebbles at her while she was horseback riding. They married in 1969, notes his official website.

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Republican Candidate #2 - NEWT GINGRICH

(Rena Schild /

Full Name: Newton Leroy Gingrich
Date of Birth: June 17, 1943
Birthplace: Harrisburg, Pa.
Home: McLean, Va.
Notable: Former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Degrees: Bachelor's in history, Emory University, Atlanta, Ga., 1965; Master's in European history, Tulane University, New Orleans, La., 1968; Doctorate of European history, Tulane, 1971
Did You Know: Gingrich is the longest-serving teacher of the Joint War Fighting course for Major Generals at Air University in Montgomery, Ala., according to his official website.

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Republican Candidate #3 - RON PAUL

(Rich Koele /

Full Name: Ronald Ernest Paul
Date of Birth: August 20, 1935
Birthplace: Pittsburgh, Pa.
Home: Lake Jackson, Texas
Notable: U.S. Congressman (R-Texas)
Degrees: Bachelor's in biology, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, Pa., 1957; Doctorate of medicine (MD), Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C., 1961
Did You Know: Specializing in obstetrics and gynecology, Paul has delivered more than 4,000 babies, according to his official website.

Republican Candidate #4 - RICK SANTORUM

(Christopher Halloran /

Full Name: Richard John Santorum
Date of Birth: May 10, 1958
Birthplace: Winchester, Va.
Home: Penn Hills, Pa.
Notable: Former U.S. Senator and Congressman (R-Pa.)
Degrees: Bachelor's in political science, Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pa., 1980; Master's of business administration (MBA), University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pa., 1981; Doctorate of law (JD), Penn State University Dickinson School of Law, State College, Pa., 1986
Did You Know: As an attorney, Santorum once represented the World Wrestling Federation. He argued that pro wrestling was not a sport - rather, it was entertainment - and should fall outside of federal anabolic steroid regulations, reports the Philadelphia City Paper.

Republican Candidate #5 - BUDDY ROEMER

(Christopher Halloran /

Full Name: Charles Elson Roemer III
Date of Birth: October 4, 1943
Birthplace: Shreveport, La.
Home: Baton Rouge, La.
Notable: Former Governor of Louisiana
Degrees: Bachelor's in economics, Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., 1964; Master's of business administration (MBA), Harvard Business School, 1967
Did You Know: Roemer graduated from high school top in his class at the age of 16 and entered Harvard College the following fall, his official website notes.

Candidates Who Dropped Out...


Full Name: Jon Meade Huntsman, Jr.
Date of Birth: March 26, 1960
Birthplace: Palo Alto, Calif.
Home: Salt Lake City, Utah
Notable: Former Governor of Utah and Former U.S. Ambassador to China
Degree: Bachelor's in international politics, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pa., 1987
Did You Know:  In 1978, Huntsman dropped out of high school in his senior year to play keyboards in his band, Wizard, his official website says. He then received a GED and started taking classes at the University of Utah that year, eventually enrolling at the school full time.


Full Name: James Richard Perry
Date of Birth: March 4, 1950
Birthplace: Paint Creek, Texas
Home: Austin, Texas
Notable: Governor of Texas
Degree: Bachelor's in animal science, Texas A&M, College Station, Texas, 1972
Did You Know: Perry was among the first generation in his family to attend college, and while at Texas A&M, he joined the Fightin' Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets and was elected twice to serve as an aggie yell leader, his official website reports.

Democratic Candidate - BARACK OBAMA

(Walter G Arce /

Full Name: Barack Hussein Obama
Date of Birth: August 4, 1961
Birthplace: Honolulu, Hawaii
Home: Chicago, Ill.
Degrees: Bachelor's degree in political science, Columbia University, New York, N.Y., 1983; Doctorate of law (JD), Harvard Law School, Cambridge, Mass., 1991
Notable: 44th president of the United States
Did You Know: In 2008, Obama won a Grammy Award for best spoken word album for "The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream." He also won a Grammy in 2006 for his audio book "Dreams From My Father."

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