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Gwen’s Take: A blacksmith and a gamer walk into a bar … What you didn’t know about the 2016 candidates

In my business we’re often criticized for focusing too heavily on the horse race nature of a political campaign. This is often a fair and just criticism.

We do it because it’s easy, and because sometimes it’s fun.

Here’s the hard part: telling people what they actually need to know. When you have, at last count, 14 candidates launching themselves toward the White House, it becomes more essential than ever.

That’s part of the reason the PBS NewsHour has been compiling a running list of the things you need to know about the 2016 candidates. You may not need to know these things now. You may not want to know them later. But no one will ever be able to accuse us of not telling you what you ought to know.

Plus, our “what the candidates believe” blog turns out to be a great cheat sheet that provides a way to see into the motivations of people who believe they are ready to run the free world.

You can find the details here.

There’s a lot in there about taxes and immigration and war and peace, of course. But I’ve been most fascinated by the things I never knew about these men and women who have the audacity of hope — or at least ambition.

Rick Perry, Republican of Texas
He was once a Democrat, albeit even then a conservative one.
He has two completely different signatures when he signs documents.

Lincoln Chafee, Democrat of Rhode Island
He was once a blacksmith!
He shared an 11-person dorm with Jeb Bush at Andover Academy, a Massachusetts prep school.

Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina
He raised his baby sister to adulthood after their parents died.
He says he’s never sent an email, and he’s never lost an election. (A connection?)

Martin O’Malley, Democrat of Maryland
He plays in a band. (That, I knew)
But he also does a mean impression of Johnny Cash! (That, I did not know)

George Pataki, Republican of New York
He was once a delegate to the United Nations (Does John Bolton know this?)
He’s the only Republican to ever beat Mario Cuomo.

Rick Santorum, Republican of Pennsylvania
As a lawyer, he represented the World Wrestling Federation.
He is a video game addict. He blames his kids.

Mike Huckabee, Republican of Arkansas
He, too, plays guitar. Maybe he and O’Malley … nah.
He has written a dozen books.

Carly Fiorina, Republican of California
She speaks fluent Italian.
She started her business career as a secretary.

Ben Carson, Republican of Maryland
The first time the pediatric neurosurgeon separated conjoined twins, it took 22 hours; the second time, 28.
His middle name is Solomon.

Bernie Sanders, Democrat of Vermont
He took part in the 1963 March on Washington.
He once recorded a folk album in the style of William Shatner.

Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida
He is a fan of Tupac Shakur.
He was the youngest Florida Speaker of the House ever.

Hillary Clinton, Democrat of New York
Honestly, is there anything left we don’t know?
Except what’s in the emails?

Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky
He wants to balance the budget, but increase defense spending.
He thinks more felons should be able to vote.

Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas
He tells Joe Biden jokes at the worst possible time.
Yes, he was born in Canada, but it does not disqualify him.

There will be more. I bet you can’t wait to hear what you don’t know about Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush and Scott Walker.

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