LISTEN: 6 Moments From A Surprising Year In Presidential Politics At almost every turn, the conventional wisdom turned out to be wrong in politics in 2015 — from Donald Trump to the depth of Bernie Sanders' support to the lack of strength of governors.
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LISTEN: 6 Moments From A Surprising Year In Presidential Politics

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LISTEN: 6 Moments From A Surprising Year In Presidential Politics

LISTEN: 6 Moments From A Surprising Year In Presidential Politics

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/461415688/461461087" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Here is a contender for understatement of the year. The presidential race has not followed the script, the script that pundits and journalists and even the neighborhood news junkie had laid out in the beginning. You might say it was the year that conventional wisdom was humbled - or trumped. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has this look back.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Just over a year ago, we got the first big moment of the 2016 race. It came in the form of a tweet from the handle, @JebBush. It said, I will actively explore the possibility of running for president of the United States. Bush spoke to a Miami TV station, WPLG.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEB BUSH: Winning with purpose, winning with meaning, winning with your integrity is what I'm trying to talk about.

GONYEA: It was a bold, early move, one designed to discourage another big name seriously looking at running, Mitt Romney. It seemed to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MITT ROMNEY: Good morning, everybody. This is Mitt.

GONYEA: This is Romney talking to potential donors just weeks after that Jeb Bush tweet.

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ROMNEY: I've decided it's best to give other leaders in the party the opportunity to become our next nominee.

GONYEA: And just like that, Bush was the guy to beat. But just as quickly, the chatter began about how dull this election was going to be, a race with another Clinton and another Bush - in this case, Hillary and Jeb, who were seen back then as the likely nominees. Voters and pundits grumbled. Here's The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson on MSNBC's Morning Joe program.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MORNING JOE")

EUGENE ROBINSON: Can you imagine anything more likely to turn off the American voter than the notion of trudging to the polls to choose between a Bush and a Clinton?

GONYEA: It turned out there was no shortage of GOP hopefuls. A half-dozen governors and former governors jumped in - Chris Christie, John Kasich and Scott Walker - as did Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Rand Paul and businesswoman Carly Fiorina... And this guy.

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DONALD TRUMP: I am officially running for president of the United States.

(CHEERING)

TRUMP: And we are going to make our country great again.

GONYEA: Call it the summer of Donald Trump. He immediately dominated the race and the polls, all despite a steady stream of controversial statements by the billionaire candidate, beginning with this description of those crossing the border illegally from Mexico.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists.

GONYEA: We could fill this story with outrageous Trump moments. Meanwhile, Scott Walker abruptly dropped out. Jeb Bush tumbled while a retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, also surprised, challenging Trump at the top for a time. For the GOP, it's been the year of the outsider, meaning way outside the system. Now, quickly to the Democrats - unlike Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton remains in a pretty solid position in the race for the nomination. But her main challenge has come not from a big name like Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren but from a self-described democratic socialist, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He's drawn huge, energized crowds.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BERNIE SANDERS: Standing room only in event after event after event. The last couple of days, we've been in Iowa, just an extraordinary response. And look at what we're doing here today in Minneapolis.

(CHEERING)

GONYEA: And so it goes in this election year that began with so much talk of just how boring it was all going to be. But remember, the first actual votes will be cast in just over a month. So a good New Year's resolution this time, be wary of predictions. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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