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What's surprised me so far in the 2016 election

1) Donald Trump, obviously.

2) So far, immigration is playing a bigger role than I would have anticipated in the Republican primary, and the economy and particularly the deficit are playing a smaller role.

3) Rand Paul has seriously underperformed relative to my expectations. And his trend line isn't looking good.

4) I would not have guessed Mike Huckabee would be outpolling Ted Cruz at this point.

5) I would not have expected Rick Perry and Rick Santorum would be polling below John Kasich, if for no other reason than name recognition from 2012.

6) I expected Jeb Bush to raise a lot of money, but I didn't expect him to blow past the $100 million mark this fast (though note that the vast bulk of that money is for his Super PAC, not his official campaign).

7) Given how badly immigration reform went for Marco Rubio, he is starting from a higher initial level of support than I would have expected. I continue to think Rubio is the most talented politician in the GOP field, and probably the strongest general election candidate Republicans have on offer. But I increasingly wonder whether he and Bush will split the "Republicans-who-want-to-win" vote.

8) I assumed Bridgegate had damaged Chris Christie's standing in the Republican Party, but I didn't expect the devastation to be this total. He's polling only 2 percentage points above Carly Fiorina. Jon Allen has the most convincing explanation I've seen for why Christie's been so completely unable to recapture his onetime mojo.

9) So far, Ben Carson has been less of a factor that I would have predicted. I could easily see the debates changing that, though.

10) The 2016 field is making me revise my estimation of Mitt Romney's political talents upward.

11) On the Democratic side, I'm surprised by how easily Hillary Clinton's lead has survived the oceans of negative press coverage and the excitement around Bernie Sanders.

Real Clear Politics

12) Even though my expectations were modest, Martin O'Malley and Jim Webb have been less visible than I would have predicted.

13) This might be explained by the chart above, but given the broad perception that Clinton's start has shown a politician with real vulnerabilities, I'm surprised more Democrats haven't jumped into the race. At this point, I'd still bet against Joe Biden entering the campaign, but I'm less sure of that than I was two months ago.

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