The United States is about 440 days away from Election Day, and this far in, we're already putting our proverbial political eggs in one basket.
In one corner, we have Donald Trump dominating the polls for the Republican Party, and in the other, Hillary Clinton commands the lead for the Democratic Party.
While both currently front-runners, it's quite reasonable to say that neither candidates will actually be elected president. Hear me out: One of them may receive the nomination from their party while the other plausibly won't, only to move forward and face defeat against the opposing party's candidate in the general election. Or neither will get the nomination, and the trajectory will change completely. Any combination that you employ (see article bottom), in the end, it will not come down to these two in a head-to-head contest.
"Really? But they're both leading in the polls!"
Yes, precisely.. and that's part of their problem.
Not to say that it's limited to this belief— because there's always room for an upset — but as history will indicate for the most part, being first in the polls so early on can easily prove to be detrimental later on in the process.
If you look back at the last election, right around this time in 2011, Rick Perry was polling at about 25%, driving the GOP pack. But eventually he descended downward, poll after poll, until he ultimately dropped out five months later. (This could have had something to do with it.) Herman Cain enjoyed a nice bump for a little while, too, until he receded and dropped out as well. In total, for at least 132 days in 2011, someone other than Mitt Romney was the lead candidate for the Republican field. And we all know how that turned out.
Going back even further, Rudy Giuliani was the GOP favorite in 2007, only to later be eclipsed by his fellow candidate John McCain. On the other end of that partisan pendulum, Hillary Clinton held the No. 1 spot for a significant amount of time, before eventually conceding to Barack Obama. If anything, she's very familiar with this narrative and its potential outcome.
The other part of the problem is who these top-tier candidates are, and their unelectability.
Mr. Trump is a belligerent manchild, prone to throwing Twitter tantrums each time a public figure dares to sully his treasured name. His callowness and bombastic rhetoric, along with his elementary vocabulary and rudimentary grasp on both public and foreign affairs, deem him unfit to be president.
Sure, voters like him now; they can't get enough of his candor, political incorrectness, and "tell it like it is" attitude. And that's great, and incredibly refreshing — we need more politicians that are that transparent. But at its core, without rational, compelling ideas, along with the ability to support them, he's essentially just throwing spaghetti at the wall; personality over policy will only get you so far.
As for Mrs. Clinton, she has more skeletons in her closet than a burial ground. While she boasts arguably the strongest level of experience in the entire race, her scandalous past, and how she feebly handles that (¯\_(ツ)_/¯) unwanted slander, undeniably cancels out her most valuable features.
The cause for concern with Mrs. Clinton is not necessarily a gender issue — a surveyed 95% of U.S. adults support a female presidential candidate — but more so that she isn't viewed as a trustworthy person, which is deeply troublesome. The most recent Quinnipiac poll found that 64% of respondents, in three key swing states — Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania — see her as dishonest, compared with 32% that feel the opposite. Similar to Mr. Trump, while she holds the most support of her party base, she's also seen as the most unfavorable (PDF).
Right now much of the data is preliminary, as voters are still under that shopping mentality, trying on a candidate or two to see what fits right. Once the greater portion of them actually start tuning in, presumably early next year, and begin assimilating the candidates' objectives, is when it will really matter the most.
Just for fun, though, here are a few predictions that could come to fruition:
*Marco Rubio vs. Hillary Clinton
Jeb Bush vs. Joe Biden (if he runs)
Scott Walker vs. Hillary Clinton
John Kasich vs. Hillary Clinton
Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden
Jeb Bush vs. Bernie Sanders
*This matchup has the greatest potential.