Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders skirts Biden's claim that he'll endorse Clinton The Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Biden spills beans: Sanders will endorse Clinton MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump's new digital strategist quickly leaves campaign GOP megadonor compares Trump to Biblical figures Trump calls for deploying NATO troops against ISIS MORE are roiling the Washington establishment in the 2016 presidential race, but their respective paths to their party's nominations are filled with obstacles.
The following is a list of major power players who could alter the 2016 election.
The conservative founder of the popular Drudge Report website has played up Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonAFL-CIO head: Trump’s ‘a fraud’ Sanders skirts Biden's claim that he'll endorse Clinton Overnight Cybersecurity: DNC hacker Guccifer 2.0 speaks out MORE's opponents. At first, it was former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D). Now, it's Sanders. Drudge has also linked to a number of sites that highlighted Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioPoll: Rubio holds massive lead in primary Rubio: Turkey attack 'directed' by ISIS Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office MORE's (R-Fla.) “robot”-like debate performance in New Hampshire earlier this month. Trump has attracted a lot of attention from the Drudge Report, which plays a major role in what cable news shows cover. The media-savvy Trump has said he “loves Drudge.”
The GOP establishment
Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanObama signs Puerto Rico debt bill Will Never Trump forces draft Romney to run? The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellOvernight Healthcare: Dems dig in over Zika funding Business groups ramp up pressure to fill Ex-Im board Senate Dems: No August break without Zika deal MORE (R-Ky.) condemned Trump's controversial policies on Muslims, while the celebrity businessman has ripped the budget deal the GOP leaders struck late last year.
However, Trump has not personally attacked Ryan or McConnell and the congressional leaders have dodged most questions about the 2016 race.
Will Ryan or McConnell endorse a Trump rival? Don't bet on it. McConnell backed home-state Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulTrump's new digital strategist quickly leaves campaign Trump: Rivals who don't back me shouldn't be allowed to run for office Trump hires Rand Paul's former digital director: report MORE (Ky.), but has given no indication he will endorse another candidate now that Paul is out of the race. Still, Ryan endorsed Mitt Romney before the 2012 Wisconsin primary, which this year takes place on April 5.
Meanwhile, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus — at least publicly — has warmed to Trump being the GOP standard-bearer. That hasn’t stopped Trump from criticizing the RNC and continuing his threat to run as a third-party candidate.
Fox News Channel
Trump has repeatedly clashed with Fox News's Megyn Kelly, but he hasn't shut out the influential network that is favored by conservatives. The businessman is a regular on various other Fox broadcasts, including shows hosted by Greta van Susteren and Bill O’Reilly.
The bottom line: The Trump-Kelly drama is a big storyline of the 2016 election and Fox is in the middle of it. That's not a bad thing.
Sheldon Adelson and the Charles and David Koch haven't picked a favorite horse in the GOP race, but they could. And that could change the equation, because the Koch brothers are vowing to spend $889 million this cycle.
Adelson, who dug deep in his pockets for Newt Gingrich in 2012, donated to Ted CruzTed CruzThe Trail 2016: Meet and greet and grief Trump to meet with Senate GOP next week Trump camp eyeing Mike Pence for VP: report MORE last year. But he is reportedly deciding between the Texas senator and Rubio. The endorsement could mean tens of millions of dollars in support.
Never underestimate the power of conservative talk radio. Talk-show host Glenn Beck has endorsed Cruz and Levin has repeatedly praised the Texas senator while ripping Trump's position on federal subsidies for ethanol.
Will Obama endorse in the Democratic primary? That’s a question a lot of Democrats are asking, though many insiders say it is clear who Obama wants to succeed him. In an interview with Politico earlier this year, he came across as a Clinton fan.
Obama has acknowledged he knows Clinton, who served as his secretary of State, better than Sanders. Many House and Senate Democrats fear a Sanders nomination, fearing the 74-year-old democratic socialist could cost the party the White House and hurt candidates down the ballot.
Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenOvernight Finance: Senate sends Puerto Rico bill to Obama | Treasury, lawmakers to meet on tax rules | Obama hits Trump on NAFTA | Fed approves most banks' capital plans The Trail 2016: When a pivot isn’t always a pivot Overnight Tech: Facebook's changes worry publishers | First stage of spectrum auction ends | Clinton recruits from Silicon Valley MORE
Every female Democratic senator has endorsed Clinton, except Warren.
The Massachusetts progressive is a force on the left and her endorsement would be a tremendous get for Clinton or Sanders. The Hill recently reported that Democratic senators are leaning on Warren, but she has give no indication she will back either candidate in the primary.
Clinton is likely to receive the endorsement of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), though the timing appears unclear.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz
Wasserman Schultz heads the Democratic National Committee (DNC), which recently changed its donation rules in what could be a boon for Clinton.
The committee has eradicated an Obama rule that banned donations from federal lobbyists and political action committees. This will allow K Street to give to a joint fundraising committee between the Clinton campaign and the DNC.
Sanders has a similar committee, but it has been largely inactive. Sanders has called on Clinton and Obama to condemn the DNC’s move, but they have not.
Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson Jr
If Sanders is going to upset Clinton and win the Democratic nomination, he simply must win more of the African-American vote. Securing an endorsement from Sharpton and/or Jackson would help.
Sanders backed Jackson’s 1988 presidential bid and it helped him win Vermont that year. However, Jackson told The Hill last month that his “present inclination” is to not endorse in the Democratic primary. Clinton and Sanders have both recently met with Sharpton, who has said he hasn’t yet decided who he will back in the race.
Clinton has a slew of famous backers, including Lena Dunham, Steven Spielberg, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Barbra Streisand and Amy Poehler. But Sanders, a relative unknown politician a year ago, has his share of bold-faced name backers, including Will Ferrell, Sarah Silverman, Jeremy Piven, Neil Young and Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
Why are celebrities important? They attract headlines. This week, Susan Sarandon pushed back at Clinton supporters who have criticized her, tweeting that it is “so insulting to women to think that you would follow a candidate JUST because she’s a woman.”
Jim Comey and Loretta Lynch
Comey, who heads the FBI, is being briefed regularly on the agency’s investigation of Clinton’s email server controversy. He is known for his independence, having taken on former President George W. Bush when he was deputy attorney general.
That independence helped convince Obama to tap him to lead the bureau. Comey’s finding could upend the 2016 race, though Lynch, Obama’s attorney general, will have the final say on any possible prosecutions.