What are the biggest unanswered questions of the 2016 election? Political reporters sound off.
Let's prepare for the new year with a very firm grasp of the obvious: This has been an often inscrutable, fascinating and even galling presidential campaign.
Conventional media wisdom has often proven totally wayward. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin's Scott Walker would be forces to really reckon with, right? Donald Trump was a flash in the pan. Hillary Clinton had distinct vulnerabilities that the likes of Martin O'Malley could well exploit.
There were many more miscues in what remains an engrossing, if at times unseemly campaign, especially on the Republican side. Bar Muslims from entering the country? Who figured that would be an issue or that the GOP candidate leading in early polls would be charged by a New York Times editorial with bringing his party "to the brink of fascism"?
So I asked folks covering or otherwise observing the campaign about what they still want to know. What really perplexes them? If there were crystal balls around, what would they be asking and then perhaps running to Las Vegas to cash in on?
We perhaps can be reassured by how many questions the cognoscenti do have. You might even be able to predict a couple of subjects that most intrigue them.
There might also be a surprise or two as far as what subjects aren't top of mind for them, like a pretty famous lady running on the Democratic side. It's implicit that she's a lock for her party's nomination, but one person did broach her and the role of her spouse.
So what would those in the know like to know?
Mark Barabak, political reporter, Los Angeles Times: Easy: Who'll win in November 2016 and why?
Carl Cannon, Washington bureau chief, RealClearPolitics: I'd like to know which Republican will win the March 15 Florida primary, and which thoroughbred will win the May 7 Kentucky Derby. (It can't all be about politics, right Jimmy?). The Donald Trump of the Derby field — that is to say, the horse ahead in the December 2015 leaderboard — is a colt named Nyquist. Several other possible contenders have names that evoke images of Trump and other candidates, Democrat and Republican: I'm thinking of Exaggerator, Cocked and Loaded, Hollywood Don, Awesome Slate, Unbridled Outlaw, Found Money, and Sudden Surprise.
John Dickerson, host, CBS' "Face the Nation": The biggest question is: What is going to happen to Donald Trump, but also what is going to happen to his voters. We have had intense moments of partisanship that have been cracked open by realignments. Are we having another one of those? What’s going to realign us? What’s going to make the fights we’re engaged in now seem so small that we stop having them? I want to know if the fact-free age we’re in ever ends.
Ryan Grim, Washington bureau chief for The Huffington Post: I'd like to know how this FBI email investigation on Hillary Clinton plays out, and whether Donald Trump has peaked or if he'll soon be talking about camps.
John Harwood, CNBC and New York Times political reporter-columnist: How Donald Trump flames out, and when.
Laura Ingraham, radio talk host and Fox News contributor: (I want to know) whether the GOP establishment and the donors who keep writing them checks will ever face the stark reality that they are on the opposite side of their constituents on key issues such as trade and immigration. Their inattention to and utter disregard for the Republican rank-and-file created by Donald Trump. They have no one to blame but themselves, and yet they still seem incapable of compromising with their own base. It's absolutely insane.
Jill Lawrence, recently a columnist for U.S. News & World Report who will soon take over as the commentary editor at USA TODAY: 1) I would love to know details on how, when and why the Donald Trump candidacy falls apart. 2) Whether Chris Christie's "Bridgegate" will ever rear its head again, and if so, to what effect. 3) I'd also want to know what it will take for Jeb Bush to finally get the message that the country is done with the Bush family.
Jon Margolis, Vermont-based retired chief political correspondent, Chicago Tribune: What baffles me is the fact-free tone of this campaign, a phenomenon of which Trump is the leading (but not the only) practitioner and beneficiary. Actually, “fact-free” understates the case. It’s not just candidates making false statements. There’s nothing new about that, and we (I still consider myself part of the political press corps, if marginally) know how to deal with that.
But this year, candidates are not simply making statements that are false; they are making statements that are meaningless, that have no cognitive content. They cannot be fact-checked. Carly Fiorina being wrong about the fetus tapes we know how to deal with. Trump saying, “I’m a smart person, I know how to run things, I know how to make America great again,” not so much. Yet the meaningless statements are routinely reported, as though they were meaningful and rational.
If I had a crystal ball I’d like to know: Who’s going to vote? And who isn’t?
With only one white person or another atop either ticket, African-American turnout is likely to be at least a tad lower. Will Hispanics be motivated? And what about all these apparently angry white people? Some who tell pollsters they are for Trump or Carson could turn out to be non-voters.
Jonathan Martin, national political correspondent, The New York Times: Who is the broker at the brokered convention that just…may…happen this time.
Roland Martin, host-managing editor, NewsOneNow, and senior analyst, Tom Joyner Morning Show: The one thing I would truly love to know is when will we see a massive Latino voter registration drive that rivals the efforts during the Civil Rights Movement. I know there are existing efforts, but I am surprised that someone has not announced an ambitious effort to put 2 million eligible but unregistered Latino voters on the rolls to have a major impact on the next president.
Laura Washington, Chicago Sun-Times columnist and political analyst, ABC-owned WLS-TV: If Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz emerge from the fray and become the nominee, how can they redeem themselves in the eyes of crucial Latino voters, given their immigration records and Cuban heritage? What role will the American urban warfare between police and communities of color play in the race? Will Bill Clinton be more of an asset or a liability to his wife?
Jeff Zeleny, CNN senior Washington correspondent: Donald Trump has shattered all crystal balls this campaign season — not to mention conventional wisdom — but there's at least one hurdle yet to cross: history. Of all the things I would like to know about how the next chapter of the 2016 election will play out, it's whether history will once again be our best guide for this race. The Republican script in recent elections has called for nominating the establishment figure, even after months of flirting with a wildcard candidate like Trump. But in this election, will history offer a roadmap to the future?