The Root: Pre-Season is Over: 3 Things to Look for in 2016’s Political Season

The NFL Pre-season is arguably a waste of time unless you are a die-hard football fan, a desperate gambler, or you’re related to someone who is actually playing in the games. It’s simply practice for players who are hoping to make the team, and for television analysts working on their one-liners and hottakes.

Because deep down everyone knows that nothing matters until the real games start, right after Labor Day.

The same applies to America’s other favorite pastime, Presidential politics. As much as the 24-hour-news cycle has been enamored with real estate mogul Donald Trump’s antics and infrequent polling most Americans haven’t cared that much about the candidates up until now. Labor day has always been the official start of the campaign season, and just like in sports analysts, it’s time to start making some predictions about the real season we’re about to embark on — whether we like it or not.

With the Democratic debates starting, fundraising getting serious and final plans in the works for the fall here are three things to expect at the start of the real political season for the 2016 election.

Uncle Joe Isn’t Coming

The biggest story in the post Labor Day Political cycle will be whether or not Vice President Joe Biden is actually jumping into the presidential race. Political insiders and most D.C. consultants have said that Biden needs to make a decision by October 1st at the latest or the campaign train will have finally left the station. Well, no need for Biden supporters to start buying tickets because he will not chose to run for president.

Why?

Because, deep down, Biden’s heart really isn’t in it. He lost his son (and best friend) just a few months ago and all reports are that he’s still in mourning and may not have the heart to enter the race. More importantly by waiting this late to start a presidential run he’s put himself at a severe strategic disadvantage in getting a team on the ground in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Not to mention he would be significantly behind in fundraising. But, because the political game is addictive Biden will likely wait until the very last minute to inform the public that he’s not running, because once he finally tells the public he’s out of the game he’s accepting the end of a long and successful career in Washington.

There Will Be Two More Surges

The last week has been all about Dr. Ben Carson and how he’s the new insurgent presidential candidate who may give Trump a run for his money. This is, at best, a temporary surge, one that won’t survive attacks from other candidates or real scrutiny, but more importantly it won’t be the last.

The Republican debates after Labor Day have the potential to give the public a new superstar every month or so. Doing well in an upcoming debate, or performing above expectations is likely to boost someone into double digits or the nebulous realm of ‘contender’ only for them to flutter down to the median by the time we get to Iowa.

Best candidates for yo-yo-ing in and out of relevance in the post Labor Day season? Carly Fiorina is likely to get a boost in the September 16th CNN debate when she faces off against the full Republican slate. John Kasich will likely follow up on his strong first debate performance and wake up one morning to find himself jumping ahead of the pact in Iowa or New Hampshire. But in the end, Iowa voters are flirts. They’ll play footsie with new comers to the campaign, but in the end they tend to gravitate towards candidates who’ve been campaigning for years when the caucuses actually start.

Hillary Clinton Will Stabilize

This doesn’t mean that Bernie Sanders will suddenly overtake Hillary in Iowa, let alone someone like Jim Webb or Martin O’Malley, because that is unlikely as well. What this means is that given her longstanding popularity amongst Democratic voters, and the fact that the majority of Democratic voters don’t really care about the “email scandal” it’s unlikely that her overall polling numbers will ever dip below 35 percent or so in Iowa.

She may hover along in the mid to low 30s for the next couple of months but she’s not going to drop any further because her reputation is too strong with the Democratic faithful.

And as a bonus prediction, take a look at the ‘undecided’ numbers for Iowa. They’re still hovering around 10 percent — which is a bad sign for Sanders and other Hillary challengers. Undecided voters tend to break late at about 3-to-1 for the incumbent or the front-runner, which means it’s very possible that even if Hillary is hovering around 35 percent for months that she could blow her competition out of the water by the time the rest of the voters decide.

This article originally appeared online at TheRoot.com.

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