Thinking outside the box? This may be your year! On both sides of the political aisle, non-politicians and underdogs are surging in the polls. These outspoken and often extreme representatives of their respective parties are shocking all with the traction they have gained with voters.
In a recent Des Moines Register poll in Iowa, the outsiders dominate the presidential field. Iowa is the first state to choose its presidential candidate, making it one of the most essential states to win.
The Republican field in particular is displaying the outsider phenomenon. Their bracket is led by businessman Donald Trump (currently first in the polls with 27 percent), followed closely by neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson (second with 21 percent of the vote). Climbing in the polls behind them is former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina.
None of these candidates has ever held a political office.
The Republicans are not alone. On the Democratic side, Bernard “Bernie” Sanders was considered to be a fringe candidate, but is now surging ahead of the favorite, Hillary Clinton. According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll, Iowa Democratic voters favor Sanders over Clinton 41 to 40 percent.
What explains this unexpected turn of events? Two main theories make the most sense. One theory is that voters are drawn to someone taking bold positions on controversial issues. Another idea is that voters are upset with the political class currently residing in Washington and want someone who is outside the Washington circle and therefore willing to make big changes.
Trump and Sanders in particular have pushed controversial issues popular with voters. Trump, with his characteristic bombast, brought illegal immigration to the forefront. In fact, immigration is nearly all he talks about (other than “winning” and how rich he is). Sanders has lambasted wealth inequality and called for socialist economic policies such as high taxes for the rich.
Both Carson and Fiorina have not advocated controversial policies so much, but rather have emphasized being outside the system and not subject to the D.C.-insider mentality. Trump is also capitalizing on his outsider status with constant jabs at the ineptitude of the government and his ability to clean house. Perhaps Trump’s overall lead is because he taps into voters who are motivated by both these reasons.
The Iowa primary is still four months away, with several public debates and countless media encounters still to come. Will these controversial ideas and novice candidates still carry the day? Keep your eyes on these outsiders; they should not be underestimated.