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2016 Starts Now: WaPo’s Dan Balz On What To Look For In Early Race


We may be just shy of 19 months out from Election Day 2016, when the nation will choose a new president. But as more and more politicians announce their entry to the contest, 2016 is already here.

The Washington Post's chief political correspondent Dan Balz stopped by the University of Illinois last weekend, and Illinois Public Media's Hannah Meisel spoke with him about what's foremost on voters' minds as they watch the early stages of the presidential race.

Balz's latest book, "Collision 2012: Obama vs. Romney and the Future of Elections in America" spends time on the theory that the contest between President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney changed the course of presidential elections going forward.

Obama and Romney's race was a proxy war for the haves and have nots in the United States, Balz argues, and the term "income inequality" has been cemented into American vernacular for good as a result of the 2012 campaign.

Balz says this race will be no exception, and notes that Republicans have learned from Romney's gaffes (like the now-infamous 47 percent comment) and have been working on ways to address income inequality, which will have to be refined by Election Day.

On the left, Balz says Hillary Clinton will face opposition from progressives in her party to move more to the left when it comes to standing up for the "99 percent."

But in the last year and a half, foreign policy issues have exploded to the forefront of voters' minds, what with an Ebola crisis in West Africa, the threat of seemingly new terrorist groups, pending deals with Iran, prolonged fighting in Ukraine, Gaza and Syria.

"I think it all boils down to security, and the question of, 'How secure is my family?'" Balz said. He says the threat of the so-called Islamic state, or ISIS, "seemed to appear from nowhere for some people." Voters, Balz says, will measure this threat against war weariness of the last 14 years of military engagement in the Middle East.