Bernie Sanders’ campaign has grown in significance and size.
Staking a more radical left wing position than Hillary Clinton, Sanders is leading the New Hampshire primary in many polls, and making massive gains in Iowa. These two early states are viewed as being crucial indicators for the rest of the primary season.
Sanders draws in huge crowds, with 28,000 people recently hearing his speech in Portland. Citing a ‘billionaire class’ that is suffocating equality in America, Sanders’ message is certainly finding a receptive audience, and though polling data and experts still consider Hillary Clinton the clear frontrunner, Sanders’ campaign is shaking some feathers in the Democratic Party.
In the Republican field, there has been a noted backlash against the ‘Washington elite’. This has launched two figures, besides Mr Trump, into the limelight for the Republican presidential primary.
Both Ben Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard, are making gains in Republican polls.
Carson has made his name as a softly spoken populist who wears his religion on his sleeve. He recently claimed he did not believe a Muslim should be President, though they might serve as Senator or Congressman, and frequently refers to his faith in speeches.
Fiorina, on the other hand, has only recently found national attention in the race. Clashing with Donald Trump after the boisterous business mogul made comments about her appearance, Fiorina has emerged as an eloquent and forceful candidate.
Neither Carson or Fiorina have the stink of Washington D.C. around them, and therefore have access to a brand of populism unavailable to other candidates. They argue the system is broken, and only those on the outside can fix it. Of course, Donald Trump also fits into this category, but has been open with his use of lobbying in politics to get his own way.
Of course, it should not go without mention that Carson is the only serious African American candidate in the Republican race, and Fiorina the only woman.
Though Rubio has struggled to grab headlines over the past few weeks, he has maintained a clear voice and projected confidence in his public appearances.
The knock on Rubio has always been that he may be too young as a freshman Senator, and that only one son of Florida will progress in 2016: Jeb Bush.
But Marco Rubio must not be overlooked. His youthfulness can certainly work to his advantage, and his ability to connect with Hispanic voters is an electoral goldmine.
Should Trump implode and Bush drift out of favourability, Rubio should be considered a potential frontrunner. His energy puts Jeb Bush to shame, and his appeal will be much wider than Trump.
The Trump machine rolls on. Despite a series of public gaffes and controversies, Donald Trump remains in first place across polls for the Republican primary.
Weeks have passed and we have little more understanding of Trump’s policy platform than before. Instead, we have seen feuds with fellow Republican nominees, most notably Jeb Bush, and a conveyor belt of offensive comments insulting women, Mexicans and Muslims.
Though his lead has yet to be seriously challenged by Bush or anyone else in the Republican race, cracks are beginning to show. He plainly did not enjoy the CNN debate as much as the first, and is playing a very risky game by toying with the idea of boycotting Fox News appearances.
Trump enjoys incredible popularity with a certain demographic of the Republican Party, but Fox News is the vital channel for accessing the conservative population. If he gives Fox News the cold shoulder, Trump could be cutting his nose off to spite his face.
The media is prone to overstating the influence of underdogs, and as such, this point is to be taken with a pinch of salt. However, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton have not fared well thus far.
Bush has failed to assuage concerns over his family’s legacy, both in electoral terms and international policy, and remains at loggerheads with a petulant Trump. At some point Jeb Bush needs a ‘moment’: a piece of public showmanship than puts down Trump and shows him as the responsible, clear headed leader of the Republican Party.
Hillary is coping with crowds massing around Bernie Sanders, an email scandal that won’t go away, and lagging polling figures that may be unrelated to either of these two problems. In fact, we’re nearing a stage where Hillary may have to win primaries in states where she will not have a chance in the general election merely to secure the nomination, namely across the south and west.
Undoubtedly, Bush is in the more serious trouble: after all, he’s a long way off leading the polls. Yet the Bush-Clinton showdown is anything but a sure fire thing at this stage.
O’Malley’s campaign feels like it barely started. Though a Democratic debate could go a long way to galvanising his campaign, the former Governor of Maryland has failed to grasp significant fundraising support or lift his polling numbers of 1%.
O’Malley has been unable to garner national attention, partly because of the impressive surge of Bernie Sanders. O’Malley sorely needs a defining moment to break out into the race and carve out space for his candidacy.
The threat of a Biden run only makes matters worse. With the best of intentions, O’Malley may not have long left in this primary season.
Once considered one of the favourites for the Republican nomination, Governor Scott Walker has pulled out of the race.
After the Trump ascendancy came into full swing, Walker had trouble finding a role in the race. He repeatedly vaunted his victories over the unions of Wisconsin, but he failed to connect on any other issues and so melted away into the crowd. All to often it has been easy to forget that Walker was supposed to be one of the heavy hitters in this primary season.
Instead he seemed to be the guy that cropped up occasionally and spoke about beating unions.
Walker won’t be missed. He added little to the Republican discussion, and exuded a palpable vacuum of charm. His exit does, however, signal a warning shot for other Republican candidates.
In a crowded field only down two contenders (Rick Perry being the second) time is running out for the lacklustre fighters in the Republican race. In particular, Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee urgently need to find some form of identity to justify their staying in a race that is so heavily dominated by Trump’s antics.
Rand Paul may also be an early drop out, but with Paul there is at least a substantive reason for him remaining in the race.
Chris Christie seemingly can’t get over the fact that he’s from New Jersey, and the most notable thing about Huckabee is that he tends to make slightly more offensive comments about the Middle East than the other contenders.
This field will be slimmed down, and soon. Out of the major contenders, Chris Christie, Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee might have to watch out.