If there's any question a presidential candidate should be ready for, it's: What's the first thing you would do if you were president?
In an interview with the Washington Post published Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz, a Texas Republican, said he would work on repealing any executive orders from President Barack Obama that exceed the legal authority of the office. Given that Cruz has made a name for himself in part by railing against what he perceives to be Obama's “lawlessness,” it's a fitting answer.
A president's first 100 days is shorthand stemming from the Franklin D. Roosevelt era for what can a leader accomplish during their honeymoon period with the American public. A look at what other presidential hopefuls have said, then, is a stand-in for the one goal they're most willing to spend their political capital on. Below, we've collected what 10 official and unofficial candidates have said about the early days of their hypothetical presidencies.
The White House is well aware of the potential for a Republican president to dismantle Obama’s legacy. “Our first 100 days we spent a lot of time signing executive orders undoing what [President George W.] Bush did,” Dan Pfeiffer, a former senior aide to Obama, told the Wall Street Journal last year. “I would like not to be sitting on a beach somewhere reading about President Cruz doing that to us, so it’s very important to us” that the actions stand, Pfeiffer said.
Cruz says he would do just that. “If you live by the pen, you die by the pen,” he told the Post. “Everything put in place by executive order can be undone by executive order.” He added that he would use his first 100 days “to engage in a careful, systematic review of each executive action and to rescind every one of them that exceeds the Constitutional and legal authority of the president.”
On his first day, he said, he would also convene his national security team to conduct a “serious, careful, sober” analysis of Iran's nuclear capabilities.
Since launching his presidential campaign on April 7, the Kentucky senator has focused on the National Security Agency's spying program, and he says ending it would be his first order of business.
On day one of the Fiorina presidency, the former HP CEO says she would make three calls. “First is to the prime minister of Israel because how we treat our friends is reassuring to our other friends,” she said during an interview in May after her campaign announcement. Her second call would be to “the head of Iran” to say the U.S. is imposing more sanctions, she said, and her third call would be to the Democratic Party. “I would tell them, ‘We have work to do and I look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to get work done.’”
In his announcement speech last week, the former Texas governor laid out a vision for a very busy first day in the Oval Office.
“On my first day in office, I will issue an immediate freeze on all pending regulations from the Obama administration,” Perry said. “That same day, I will send to Congress a comprehensive reform and rollback of job-killing mandates created by Obamacare, Dodd-Frank, and other Obama-era policies.” He'd also sign an executive order approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, he said.
The former Florida governor, who is expected to announce his campaign on Monday, said in May that during his first 100 days in office he would try to change the regulatory environment and “focus on the things the executive branch, the presidency, the president can do without a whole lot of interaction with Congress.”
He said he would hire officials who aren't “just political hacks and academics,” undo executive orders he doesn't agree with, and focus on proposals that have bipartisan support. He said he would also work to “restore the relationships” with countries abroad (specifically with Netanyahu) that foster peace, and repeal Obamacare.
“I think repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a 21st century, consumer-directed, patient-driven heath care system has to be a high priority,” he said.
“Well, I think it would be important to have a conversation with the House and the Senate and talk about what our goals as a nation should be,” the retired neurosurgeon said in an April video before he announced his campaign. He goes on to say that he and congressional leaders would lay out “common goals and objectives” and “start by doing some things we all agreed needed to be done.”
He said getting through the easy tasks would help build stronger relationships. He went on to say that the U.S. needs to do “something” to address the national debt and to stimulate the economy with deregulation.
“I think if we use that kind of approach we'll be just fine,” Carson says.
In March, conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt asked the Wisconsin governor if he would reject any Iran deal he inherited from the Obama administration if it allowed Iran to continue its uranium enrichment program. “Absolutely, on Day One,” replied Walker, who is expected to announce his campaign in coming weeks.
The New Jersey governor hasn't formally announced yet, but in February he laid out three priorities for his first 100 days. “Within the first 100 days, if I were to run for president and be elected, we would change this tax system in this country so that people and companies aren't leaving the country anymore,” he told a group of New Hampshire Republicans.
“Secondly, we would pass a national energy policy, and one that takes full advantage of all of the resources that we have available to us to help grow our economy and make the world a more peaceful and stable place,” he continued, adding, “And the third thing is ... is to reestablish American leadership around the world.”
In May, the Washington Examiner's David M. Drucker asked the Louisiana governor what he would do on “Day One” if he was elected president. “The very first thing the president's got to do, domestically, is repeal and replace Obamacare,” replied Jindal, who is expected to announce his campaign on June 24.
When Drucker said he might not have the votes, Jindal said Democrats wouldn't be as supportive of Obamacare with a Republican in the White House. “I don't think Republicans should start off assuming that Democrats won't help them to get rid of Obamacare. We won elections in a lot of states the president carried, in 2014, [by running] on Obamacare,” he said.
The South Carolina senator's most well known statement on his first days in office came in March, before he announced his campaign, when he told an audience in New Hampshire that he would “literally use the military” to keep Congress in Washington until they ended sequestration cuts to the defense budget.
And here is the first thing I would do if I were president of the United States: I wouldn’t let Congress leave town until we fix this. I would literally use the military to keep them in if I had to. We’re not leaving town until we restore these defense cuts. We’re not leaving town until we restore the intel cuts. Killing terrorists is the only option other than capturing them, because they're not deterred by death.
As Bloomberg's David Weigel noted, this was a joke, though some media outlets didn't take it that way.