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When American voters go to the polls on November 8, they will bring to an end an election cycle that has wholly captivated and sometimes shocked the nation. On that day, the United States will elect its 45th President, and the electoral college map will once again assume the shades of red and blue.

As of high summer, Hillary holds a commanding lead. But in an election cycle marked by unpredictable twists and turns, the tide may yet turn several times before polling day.

This special blog series, USA Decides 2016, focuses on the intersection between election coverage and political science, bringing together insight from our academics and students on an election posing a range of contested questions. How is electoral data changing? Will more blue-collar voters drift to the GOP column? What does this election say about the power of political parties? Can the centre-left hold on to power in a year defined by populism?

Join the Oxford University Politics Blogs to engage with our regular coverage. If you are an academic or student interested in contributing, please contact our editorial team through the contact link above.

‘The Brawl Begins’, an article about the 2016 primaries in The Economist provides the most overt manifestation of how a discourse of sports has permeated contemporary political reporting. Describing elections as a “jaw-dropping spectacle” or referring to the Iowa caucuses as the “opening round” in a political boxing match, a prime example of horse-race journalism, is particularly prevalent in presidential primary elections. This is due to the lengthening of the primary period and the truism that the “newsworthiness of what a candidate says about public policies is limited” because “once a candidate makes known his position on an issue, further statements concerning …

In the likely event that Hillary Clinton secures the Democratic nomination by the end of May or early June, the task of uniting the party behind her will be much less onerous than that of whoever emerges from the GOP field. For Republicans, a ‘brokered’ convention looms on the horizon. And, given the severely fractured status of the conservative movement in America, it will be hard for any candidate—Trump or otherwise—to appeal to a national constituency that seems to lack any consensus on what it means to even be “conservative.” Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, would have the time and resources to bring unity to her platform and to her party following what has been an impressive challenge by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

In a campaign full of surprises, one could argue that the biggest sources of despair (if you are part of the GOP ‘establishment’) and space for Schaudenfreude (if you are a Democrat) is that the Trump Express is of the Republican’s own making. Plenty has been written about the uneasy demographic arrangement that have delivered routine Republican victories. A good slice of the GOP coalition profits little (in fact suffers) from the same longstanding GOP policies that Trump is now assailing – light-touch financial regulation, free trade, reducing entitlement spending. The top-down push for immigration reform following the Mitt Romney defeat in 2012 was the last …