One year from today, on Jan 20, 2017, the United States will get a new president.
We have a long way to go to get there and the road to Inauguration Day 2017 will go right through Ohio. Actually it will go right through Dayton which will host the first General Election debate on Sept. 26, 2016 at the Wright State University Nutter Center. Cleveland will be on the national stage in July when it hosts the Republican National Convention - the first major party in the state since 1936.
Here's a look at 10 key dates between now and when the next president raises his - or her - right hand to take the oath of office.
February 1: Will the Iowa Caucuses make a difference?
Some years the Iowa Caucuses make a difference like in 1976, 2004 and 2008 for Democrats and in some years they don't impact the race much at all. In 1980, for example, Ronald Reagan lost the Iowa Caucus to George H.W. Bush and then went on to win the presidency. On the Republican side Rick Santorum (2012), Mike Huckabee (2008) and Bob Dole (1988) all won the Iowa Caucus and lost the party nomination. The same thing happened to Democrats Dick Gephardt (1988) and Ed Muskie (1972). In 1992, the Iowa Caucus didn't play a key role because Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin was on the ballot. That year Bill Clinton, the eventual nominee, only received 3 percent of the Iowa vote.
But Iowa can play a significant role in establishing a front-runner. In 2008 when Barack Obama won in Iowa and Hillary Clinton came in third behind John Edwards, the Iowa win put Obama in a new light and established him as someone who could fight the Clinton machine nationally. Had Obama lost Iowa and Clinton won there, there's a good chance she would have been president in 2009.
In 2004, then Democratic front-runner Howard Dean came in third in Iowa to John Kerry and John Edwards. The win in Iowa propelled Kerry to front-runner status and led to the infamous "Dean Scream."
The latest polls out of Iowa on the Republican side show a tight race on both sides. For Republicans, Donald Trump leads some polls and Ted Cruz leads some, nobody else is close. But polls in Iowa are not always reliable because of the caucus system. Take a look at 2012 when Santorum narrowly defeated Mitt Romney. In the polls right before the election, Romney and Ron Paul lead the polls. Santorum was polling at 18 percent, but on election night ended up in the lead with 24.6 percent.
For Republicans this year the main thing Iowa might do is thin out the herd. With 11 candidates still in the race, some candidates like Santorum, Carly Fiorina, Mike Huckabee or Rand Paul might drop out if they suffer a big loss on Feb. 1.
For Democrats, it's neck and neck right now. The latest Des Moines Register, Bloomberg poll shows Hillary Clinton at 42 percent and Bernie Sanders at 40 percent. Since Sanders is leading in New Hampshire, a win in Iowa would be a big boost to his campaign.
February 9: Will there be a "Comeback Kid"?
Unlike Iowa, New Hampshire votes in a straight primary. New Hampshire has a better track record of going with the eventual nominee. In recent years without an incumbent president running, New Hampshire went with the eventual Democratic nominee in 2004, 2000, 1988, 1976. On the Republican side, New Hampshire went with the eventual winner in 2012, 2008, 1988, 1980.
But coming in second place can make a difference. In 1992 then Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton called himself the Comeback Kid in New Hampshire after coming in second to former Massachusetts Sen. Paul Tsongas. Since Tsongas' state bordered New Hampshire, he was expected to win. The fact that Clinton was within single digits of Tsongas lit a fire under his campaign. Clinton went on from New Hampshire to win the bulk of the remaining primaries. He was the first president to win the White House without winning the New Hampshire primary. Oddly, the last three presidents - Obama, George W. Bush and Clinton - all lost the New Hampshire primaries in 1992, 2000 and 2008 and went on to win the White House.
Current polls show Sanders, who is from Vermont, ahead of Hillary Clinton in nearly all polls. The latest poll out today has Sanders with a 27-point lead.
On the Republican side Donald Trump is leading in all the recent New Hampshire polls. Ohio Gov. John Kasich is second to Trump in the latest American Research Group poll. Kasich and Ted Cruz are tied in the latest Monmouth University poll. Rubio is second in the latest Fox News poll. If Trump wins in New Hampshire, expect whoever comes in second to say they are the "Comeback Kid" of this election cycle.
March 1: Super Tuesday moment of truth
Ted Cruz, who is going hard for evangelical votes needs to do well on March 1 and Super Tuesday is filled with southern states where Cruz should do well. On this date Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, and Virginia have primaries. Colorado and Minnesota have caucuses; Alaska, North Dakota and Wyoming have Republican caucuses and Democrats vote in American Samoa.
After March 1 could be when we see the biggest purge of candidates and start to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
March 15: Ohio and Florida primaries
Ohio and Florida always make a difference in the General Election and they could in the primaries as well if Super Tuesday doesn't nail down the field. David Wasserman of fivethirtyeight.com said Tuesday that "Florida and Ohio, which tend to support more conventional Republicans, are likelier to shape the race’s destiny than Iowa or South Carolina. That’s because they will award a whopping 99 and 72 delegates, respectively, in huge winner-take-all primaries on March 15."
If Gov. John Kasich stays in the race through March 15, he could pick up all of Ohio's delegates.
June 7: That's it, no more primaries. Will it matter?
The Democrats only have three candidates in the race for the nomination, so the party is more likely to tie up its nomination earlier that the GOP. With 11 candidates in the race, Republicans may take longer to pick a nominee unless someone wins the bulk of contests from the beginning.
On June 7, California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico and South Dakota will end the nominating contests. If nobody has a majority of delegates by this time, though unlikely, we could be looking at a brokered convention for Republicans.
June 7-July 17: The Veepstakes
This is the time when both parties are most likely to trot out vice presidential candidates. Joel Goldstein, a guest columnist for Sabato's Crystal Ball mentions these as possible Democratic VP picks:
- Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine
- Former Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh
- Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
- Virginia Sen. Mark Warner
- Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro
On the Republican side, Goldstein says it's unlikely the GOP nominee will run with one of the other challengers. He mentions these as people to watch:
- South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley
- Indiana Gov. Mike Pence
- South Dakota Sen. John Thune
However, with Ohio and Florida always crucial states for the GOP, conventional wisdom would say Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would be on the list for potential VP nominees, if they don't win the nomination.
July 18-28: The Conventions
Republicans go first with their convention July 18 - 21 in Cleveland, followed by Democrats July 25-28 in Philadelphia.
Sept. 26: Debate night in Dayton
Dayton will be the center of the political world for one night on Sept. 26 when the two nominees face off in the first debate at Wright State University's Nutter Center.
The candidates will have two other debates, one on Oct. 9 and one on Oct. 19. The vice presidential candidates will face off on Oct. 4
Oct. 12: Early voting begins in Ohio
In 2012, 1.9 million votes were cast in Ohio - before Election Day. Since 5.6 million votes were cast in the state, that means more than 30 percent of Ohio's votes came from early voting. The candidates this fall will make an even bigger attempt to nail down early votes in Ohio, so expect to see lots of campaign visits and TV ads in August and September. Voting starts on Oct. 12.
Nov. 8: Election Day
It's all over ... unless it's like the 2000 election.