Editor's Pick: Originally Published Wednesday, Dec. 23
Fill in the blank: "Though few Republican strategists expect _____________ to be the nominee, they acknowledge his potential to throw a wrench into the establishment's desire to unify early, and the danger of turning off moderates if his divisive views continue to gain traction."
Know who it is? I'll give you a clue: It's from a New York Times article published in December 2014.
Think the candidate in question is Donald Trump? Nope -- it's Ben Carson. A year ago, it was the retired neurosurgeon's unorthodox antics and over-the-top rhetoric that had the GOP establishment worried about tarnishing their party's image.
The presidential election has taken a number of unexpected twists and turns in 2015. Who would have thought a reality television star would shake an entire party's soul, a political legacy would be flailing in the polls, or that a democratic socialist would take the progressive movement by storm? Gauging by the conversation a year ago, nobody.
We took a look back at what pundits were expecting this time last year to see just how far we've come.
Primary season is just weeks away, and at least on the Republican side, it looks like it's still anybody's game. Not so long ago, a Bush-Clinton showdown in the general election seemed all but inevitable.
"What would a Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton matchup in 2016 look like?" an MSNBC headline mused, the accompanying article wondering what would happen if two families, which had grown close over the years, were again put at political odds. Former President George W. Bush in an interview with CNNsaid he believed his brother, Jeb, could beat his "sister-in-law" Hillary in the race for the White House.
The other name being floated around was Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts governor, who lost in 2012 to Barack Obama, was the only Republican ahead of Bush in the polls. "It's hard to think of a stronger signal that the party is content to stick with the old formula -- perhaps encouraged by the midterm-election results -- than nominating either Bush or Romney," wroteThe Atlantic's David A. Graham.
If 2015 has taught us anything, it is that the GOP -- or at least its constituents -- are anything but happy with the old model, hence Trump, Carson and even former HP CEO Carly Fiorina's rise to prominence on the national stage. The Clinton campaign has taken to trolling Bush over his approach to Trump.
As for other Republican candidates, Ted Cruz was apologizing to his fellow party members for ruining their weekends by forcing round-the-clock votes in Congress on a handful of President Obama's nominees and a $1.1 trillion spending bill. "Is Ted Cruz Running for President...In 2008?" NPRasked, musing whether Cruz's political urgency would help him or hurt him in his presidential bid.
A year ago, it was Marco Rubio who was critiquing the president's deal-making skills, calling him the "worst negotiator" since "at least Jimmy Carter" after the announcement that the U.S. would restore diplomatic relations with Cuba. "By conceding to the oppressors in the Castro regime, this president and his administration have let the Cuba people down, further weakened America's standing in the world and endangered Americans," Rubio, a Cuban-American, wrote in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal.
The freshman senator from Florida hadn't yet thrown his hat into the presidential ring, but his inner circle was making clear a run from Bush wouldn't sway him one way or another.
Ohio Governor John Kasich was beatingaround the White House bush, and Fiorina was making campaign hires. Rand Paul announced in early December 2014 that he would be running for Senate reelection, though he remained quiet on a bid for the presidency. But when the Kentucky libertarian began running an attack ad against Bush mid-month, it became pretty clear a presidential run was in the works.
What about Trump?
The billionaire businessman said at an appearance at a December event in Washington, D.C. that he was considering "very strongly" a run for the presidency. He was already antagonizing Bush, too, telling ABC Newsanother Bush is "the last thing we need right now."
But the real estate magnate had other fish to fry as well -- enlisting golf pro Tiger Woods to design a golf course in Dubai and publicizing the latest season of The Celebrity Apprentice. "I would rather do what I'm doing than run for president," he told ABC News. "But I love the country more."
A year ago, the Democratic Party's presidential race looked more like it does today than the GOP does, though uncertainty was still in the air.
Former Secretary of State Clinton, though by many presumed to be the party's nominee, hadn't yet announced her candidacy. Still, her run appeared to be more of a question of when rather than if. Martin O'Malley was preparing his run as well, adding New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's campaign manager to his team.
The senator from Vermont told the Associated Pressthat he would make a "gut decision" about seeking the Democratic nomination by March 2016 (he wound up formally announcing his candidacy in May). "I don't want to do it unless I can do it well," he said. "I don't want to do it unless we can win this thing."
Flashes of the "Bern" his supporters would soon be feeling could already be seen. He called for a revolution at an event in Iowa and emphasized the need for grassroots support in mounting a campaign.
Here's what Bloomberg had to say about it: "Bernie Sanders, Superstar."