WASHINGTON, D.C.: Americans elect a new president one year from Sunday, with the names Clinton, Trump, Carson and Bush at the fore. The race is wide open, with Democrats seeking a historic treble and Republicans suffering an identity crisis.
As the country gears up for a 12-month campaign slog — starting with a dash to the first statewide primary contests in February — concern has risen over Mideast violence and police-citizen tensions at home, and debate swirls over immigration, guns and income inequality.
Amid the tumult, voters are demanding stronger economic gains than those made during the recovery from the great recession of 2007 and 2008.
Venting their frustration with Washington, core Republicans have embraced non-politicians like real estate tycoon Donald Trump and doctor Ben Carson, moves that some worry might threaten party efforts to reclaim the White House after eight years of Barack Obama.
And voters across the political spectrum are debating whether to push the button on a political reset, or return either the Bush or Clinton dynasties to the throne.
US voters have long elevated outsiders at the start of the tedious primary process, including NATO commander general Wesley Clark in the 2004 cycle, New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2008, and former Godfather’s Pizza chief executive Herman Cain in 2012.
While that trend appears particularly acute this year, 365 days is an eternity in politics and it remains too early to convincingly assess the likelihood of a Trump or Carson presidency, experts say.
“The national polls especially are a function of name recognition, and if you don’t believe me you can ask ‘President Giuliani’ and all the other poll frontrunners whose campaigns never won them the nomination,” Brendan Nyhan, assistant professor of government at Dartmouth College, told AFP.
But neophyte staying power has been the most interesting factor of the 2016 race to date, according to Republican strategist Brian McClung, who consulted for Tim Pawlenty’s 2012 presidential campaign.
With the resilience of this year’s outsiders, McClung said, the question becomes: “Will the more establishment candidate be able to galvanize enough support to win as they have in the past, or is this the year that it tips over to the anti-establishment side?”