WASHINGTON — The easiest job in American journalism? Even in a year that defied all kinds of easy expectations, that would be identifying the biggest political surprise of 2016 — plus some runners-up.
1. President Trump
There was wide skepticism he would run, few predictions he could claim the Republican presidential nomination, and disbelief among most of the pros he could win the White House, even on Election Day. But Donald Trump, real-estate mogul and reality TV star, is poised to be inaugurated as the nation’s 45th president next month.
By multiple measures, he’s a historic figure as commander in chief: the first president to have neither governmental nor military command experience. The candidate with the highest negative ratings of any winning contender in the history of polling. The oldest person ever elected to a first term in the White House. And, based on the financial disclosure forms filed when he started his bid, the richest.
2. Dynasties defeated
Trump’s path to the nomination plowed through the two leading families in American politics.
First, in the Republican primaries, Trump vanquished the GOP’s most successful dynasty, the Bushes, the family that fielded two of America’s four most recent presidents. While former Florida governor Jeb Bush started his bid with the most money in the bank and establishment endorsements in his pocket, he failed to fuel the fervent support that Trump commanded. “Low-energy,” Trump devastatingly dubbed him.
After four generations of family members serving in the Senate, the House, the Texas and Florida governors’ mansions and the White House, the sole Bush in elective office at the moment is George P. Bush, the Texas land commissioner and the 40-year-old great-grandson of the late Connecticut senator Prescott Bush, who launched what would become the family business.
In the general election, Trump defeated the most powerful family in Democratic politics. Bill and Hillary Clinton have been central figures in defining the Democratic Party since he ousted George H.W. Bush from the White House in 1992. While the Clintons are nothing if not resilient, the family’s era may be over: 62% of Democrats and independents in the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll released last week said Hillary Clinton shouldn’t make another run for the job in four years.
3. The Obama disconnect
After two terms, Barack Obama is moving out of the White House with a healthy job-approval rating, 54% in the latest USA TODAY survey. He took over eight…