A wildcard in politics is a relatively unexpected event that can completely upend expected election results. Americans also call this an " October Surprise" since most elections (not primaries) take place the first Tuesday in November.
Here are 7 "wildcards" that can completely turn predictions made about the 2016 Presidential Elections on their heads. These can all potentially happen, although the probability is seen as low today:
1. Hillary Clinton's campaign can be fatally stopped by an indictment of Hillary herself, or members of her top staff, for improperly handling classified information on her email server. The FBI is investigating this now. The Clinton Foundation can also be charged with improper usage of funds and fund raising itself. The reasons why an indictment is not probable on a Federal Level is that the Obama Administration would have to concur (the Justice Department), and this is seen as not very likely.
2. Donald Trump can run for President as an independent third party candidate. This could happen if Trump starts losing caucus and primary elections in 2016 and decides that the Republican Party establishment is conspiring against him. Trump has signed a pledge indicating he will not do this, but this would not apply if he decides he is being treated unfairly. Note that it is unlikely that Trump could get on the ballot in all 50 states as an independent candidate at this late date.
3. Health concerns. Any candidate over 65 years old is subject to possible health concerns that could force an end to their candidacy. Hillary Clinton is 68 years old, Donald Trump is 69. and Bernie Sanders is 74. If any of these candidates were to withdraw from the primary election, it would completely upend election predictions.
4. The Economy: A stock market crash or severe downturn in the economy would favor not only the Presidency, but one-party Republican rule after the 2016 elections.
5. A Security Issue: For example, a hot war breaking out in the Middle East, or a hot war in Europe between Russia and Turkey, or a 9/11 type attack on U.S. soil are bound to favor both Hillary Clinton and security-minded and experiences Republican candidates.
6. Sex Scandals: These are always possible. in 2012, Herman Cain, a tea party favorite was #1 in the polls until admission of a possible affair ran him out of the race. This is bound the impact the Republican race more than the Democratic race simply because there are so many more candidates involved.
7. A completely unexpected wild card. Some event coming up, or news about a past event erupts and totally changes politics as we know it. How about a supervolcano eruption at Yellowstone National Park causing an environmental crisis? It could happen, although it is unlikely.
This is why making election predictions is so difficult one year in advance!