As 2016 nears, the political jockeying is intensifying. Here’s who’s up and who’s down in the wonderful world of politics:
↑Up, up, up goes Donald Trump. He’s even saying he’ll be “very nice and highly respectful” of other candidates at Thursday’s first GOP presidential debate. Is that going to happen? Of course not. Viewers will tune in expecting another Trump rant. Mr. Prime Time won’t disappoint. The threat that he runs independent is unnerving Republicans from Sarasota to Seattle.
↓Gov. John Kasich of Ohio is in danger of not making the prime-time faceoff Thursday, blowing a hole in the candidacy of maybe the field’s most interesting GOPer. He’s got the right experience and great energy. But he expanded Medicaid, and that’s killing him.
↓Where have you gone, Rand Paul? A former front-runner, Paul was once described as the most interesting man in politics with his free-market libertarianism. Now he’s underfunded, understaffed and underwater.
↑Jeb Bush is quietly raising crazy money and looking more adultlike by the day as The Donald runs wild. Trump throws flames. Jeb stands tall.
↓Hillary Clinton: Down, down, down she goes. In Iowa, 23 percent more people see her in a more unfavorable light than a favorable one. Ouch. Republicans beat her in hypothetical matchups in swing states Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. Emailgate continues. Is it Joltin’ Joe Biden time?
↓Uhhhhh, no. If Democrats are counting on the veep as a Hail Mary candidate, they can kiss their eight-year hold on the White House goodbye. Despite his standing as a good-guy second banana, he’s still seen as more gaffe-prone than viable.
↑President Barack Obama says he could win a third term. That he’s even talking like that suggests he’s in a better place.
↑Gov. Jay Nixon of Missouri appears to be righting the ship after the Ferguson fiasco. Then again, the one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death looms just days from now, and that will bring back memories of Nixon’s weak-kneed response.
↓Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is past the point of no return. This week, the highway fund and federal health care dollars bailed out his budget. But those one-time sources aren’t enough to bail out declining revenues.
↑Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, whose vigor and boffo re-election make him the Teddy Roosevelt of local politics. But half the new City Council is angling for his job, making his next four years tricky treacherous.