The power brokers who could decide the 2016 election

The power brokers who could decide the 2016 election

Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years MORE and Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio Democrats debate in Ohio: Who came out on top? 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 DrudgeMatthew (Matt) Nathan DrudgeMatt Drudge: Democratic nomination is Elizabeth Warren's to lose Trump lashes out at media after border criticism Trump takes hit from conservative commentators on border wall MORE

The conservative founder of the popular Drudge Report website has played up Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Democrats fear Ohio slipping further away in 2020 Poll: Warren leads Biden in Maine by 12 points 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 Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Warren turns up heat in battle with Facebook | Instagram unveils new data privacy feature | Advocacy group seeks funding to write about Big Tech TikTok adds former lawmakers to help develop content moderation policies This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington 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 Davis RyanAmash: Trump incorrect in claiming Congress didn't subpoena Obama officials Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights Three-way clash set to dominate Democratic debate MORE (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump-GOP tensions over Syria show signs of easing Trump again vetoes resolution blocking national emergency for border wall Trump invites congressional leaders to meeting on Turkey 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 PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCNN catches heat for asking candidates about Ellen, Bush friendship at debate Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump isolated amid Syria furor | Pompeo, Pence to visit Turkey in push for ceasefire | Turkish troops advance in Syria | Graham throws support behind Trump's sanctions Rand Paul rips Lindsey Graham: 'Wrong about almost every foreign policy decision' 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 CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump grapples with Turkey controversy This week: Congress returns to chaotic Washington The Hill's Morning Report - Lawmakers return to work as Dem candidates set to debate 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 LevinMark Reed LevinMeghan McCain: Women would be called 'crazy bitches' if they acted like male Trump allies Trump retweets bot that replaces key words in his tweets with 'shark' Levin grapples with Fox News host over Trump's Ukraine conduct: 'Your question is not honest' MORE

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 Ann WarrenWarren defends, Buttigieg attacks in debate that shrank the field Five takeaways from the Democratic debate in Ohio New study: Full-scale 'Medicare for All' costs trillion over 10 years 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.