Republican Women Who Have Run for President

BLFF Team | Mar 2, 2023


Former Governor Nikki Haley announced her run for president last week, becoming the first former woman governor to run for president and the first Asian American woman to run as a Republican. According to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, Haley is the 24th “prominent woman” to run for president, and the fifth who is a Republican.

Here’s a look back at the previous four GOP women who sought the Oval Office:

Carly Fiorina – 2016

Prior to running for president in 2016, Carly Fiorina was well known for her leadership of Hewlett-Packard, where she was CEO from 1999 – 2005. By holding this position, she became the first woman to lead a Fortune 50 company.

Fiorina graduated from Stanford University in 1976, received a Master of Business Administration in 1980, and a Master of Science degree in management from the MIT Sloan School in 1989.

In 1990, Fiorina became the first woman officer of AT&T, after working at the company for a decade. She went on to be named Fortune’s most powerful woman in business for five years, starting in 2003, and she was named one of TIME’s “most influential people in the world today” the following year.

Fiorina unsuccessfully ran for Senate in 2010, challenging incumbent Senator Barbara Boxer. She announced her candidacy for the 2016 presidential election in May 2015, amidst a crowded Republican field. She suspended her campaign in February 2016 and endorsed Ted Cruz the following month. Cruz soon announced that Fiorina would be his running mate if he won the Republican nomination. (Donald Trump won the GOP nomination, and the general election, in 2016.)

Today, Fiorina leads Carly Fiorina Enterprises & the Unlocking Potential Foundation. She is also the Chair of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.


Michele Bachmann – 2012

Michele Bachmann served four terms in Congress, representing Minnesota. She was the first Republican woman from Minnesota to be elected to the House of Representatives. Bachmann was a founding member of the congressional Tea Party Congress, and “one of the most prominent opponents” of the Obama administration.

In June 2011, Bachmann launched her campaign for president, “casting herself as hard-charging conservative capable of carrying the party into the 2012 election over a crowded field of GOP rivals.” During the 2012 election season, Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Pollthe first woman to do so.

Bachmann worked as a IRS lawyer in Minnesota for four years early in her career, and she served in the Minnesota state senate before running for Congress (2000 – 2006).

Bachmann holds a degree in political science and English from Winona State University, a JD from the Coburn School of Law at Oral Robers University, and a master’s of law in taxation from the College of William and Mary.

In 2020, she was named Dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University.


Elizabeth Hanford Dole – 2000

Elizabeth Dole is a graduate of Duke University, Harvard Law School, and Harvard University (with a Master of Arts in Teaching degree). She began her “career of dedication to public safety” as Deputy to the Special Assistant for Consumer Affairs under the Nixon administration.

Dole was appointed U.S. Secretary of Transportation in 1983—the first woman to hold the position. Her career also includes serving as staff assistant to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare during the Johnson administration, as U.S. Secretary of Labor, and as Assistant to President Reagan for Public Liaison.

Dole was “deeply involved” in the Vice Presidential and Presidential campaigns of her late husband Robert Dole in 1976, 1980, 1988, and 1996.

In 1991, Dole became president of the American Red Cross, where she served until running for president in 1999. Following her unsuccessful run for president in the 2000 election (which brought George W. Bush to the White House), Dole ran for a North Carolina Senate seat in 2002 and won. She was the first woman Senator from North Carolina.

Dole now leads the Elizabeth Dole Foundation, the “preeminent organization empowering, supporting, and honoring our nation’s 5.5. million military caregivers; the spouses, parents, family members, and friends who care for America’s wounded, ill, or injured veterans,” which she founded in 2012.


Margaret Chase Smith – 1964

Margaret Chase Smith made history throughout her political career—she was the first woman to serve in both houses of the U.S. Congress, and she was the first woman to be placed in nomination for president by a major party, in 1964.

Smith began her career in Congress after her husband, Maine Congressman Clyde Smith, died in 1940. She served over four terms in the House, then served in the Senate for 24 years. Her “defining moment in the U.S. Senate” was in 1950, when she delivered a speech against Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy, saying that, “The American people are sick and tired of being afraid to speak their minds lest they be politically smeared as ‘Communists’ or ‘Fascists’ by their opponents. Freedom of speech is not what it used to be in America. It has been so abused by some that it is not exercised by others.”

When she ran for President in 1964, Smith said, “When people keep telling you, you can’t do a thing, you kind of like to try.” She lost the Republican nomination to Barry Goldwater, and incumbent President Lyndon Johnson won that year’s general election.


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