The power brokers who could decide the 2016 election

The power brokers who could decide the 2016 election

Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive things to watch for in the DNC race Sanders: I have little hope Trump will keep promises Democrats offer double-talk on Veterans Affairs MORE and Donald TrumpDonald TrumpWrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration Madonna rips into Trump at charity show Ex-staffer on Trump Taiwan flap: Clinton warned us this would happen MORE are roiling the Washington establishment in the 2016 presidential race, but their respective paths to their party's nominations are filled with obstacles.

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While the Vermont senator and real estate mogul have defied all pundit predictions, there are power brokers on both sides of aisle who will play major roles in deciding who will advance to the general election. Some are fans of the grassroots movements that have catapulted Trump and Sanders; some are not.

The following is a list of major power players who could alter the 2016 election.

Matt Drudge

The conservative founder of the popular Drudge Report website has played up Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonWrestling mogul McMahon could slam her way into Trump administration Madonna rips into Trump at charity show Ex-staffer on Trump Taiwan flap: Clinton warned us this would happen 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 RubioThe ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Graham to roll out extension of Obama immigration program Trump and Cuba: A murky future 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 RyanNearly 600 VA dental patients may have been exposed to HIV, hepatitis Republicans raise red flags about ObamaCare repeal strategy Overnight Healthcare: GOP in talks about helping insurers after ObamaCare repeal MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTrump flirts with Dems for Cabinet Lawmakers eye early exit from Washington Confirm Scott Palk for the Western District of Oklahoma 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 PaulGOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency The ignored question: What does the future Republican Party look like? Rand Paul skeptical about Romney as secretary of State 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.

GOP megadonors  

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 CruzCruz: I'd rather have Trump talk to Taiwan than Cuba or Iran Lewandowski: Top Cruz aide advised Trump team before NH primary Five reasons why Donald Trump could be the 'Greatest Communicator' 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.

Mark Levin

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.

President Obama

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 WarrenSanders vs. Trump: The battle of the bully pulpit Trump’s Treasury pick leaves Sears board: report Reeling Dems look for new leader 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.

Hollywood

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.