WASHINGTON - Two unusual candidates, one Republican and one Democrat, dominate the early stages of the U.S. presidential campaign. It is far too early to predict who will be the candidates facing off in the 2016 election. But the attention surrounding businessman Donald Trump and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders signals that American voters are tired of the current state of political affairs.
Millions of Americans on opposite sides of the political spectrum have expressed discontent with "politics as usual." And they seem to think that few of the latest crop of presidential hopefuls can offer anything more than that.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump has used people's discontent to his advantage.
"There's a tremendous movement going on and it's not about me. It's what I am saying. It's the message," he said.
Some political analysts have ridiculed Trump's hopes of becoming the Republican Party's nominee because of his tactless remarks and brash manner, as well as his lack of a clear political program. But opinion polls show him far ahead of the other candidates in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.
At separate town hall meetings Wednesday in New Hampshire, Trump attracted about 2,000 people, while establishment favorite Jeb Bush drew only about 150. The former Florida governor, related to two former U.S. presidents, had been considered the front-runner when the race began.
"You need a Republican president that respects the constitution and and does not sign executive orders randomly as though it's easy to do," said Bush.
On the Democratic side, U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders draws huge audiences wherever he appears. He has a very clear agenda — one that appeals to disadvantaged citizens.
"No one takes seriously the idea that maybe, just maybe, we need a political revolution in America," he said.
Sanders has been an outspoken critic of modern capitalism and his call for a more equal income distribution resonates with voters, but critics say his socialist agenda will not help him win his party's nomination.
Former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton still leads the polls in that race.
"We are going to work toward opportunity. We are going to make us once again be a country where we don't turn our backs on anybody," she said.
Regardless of the attention they get, neither Trump nor Sanders is widely expected to win his party's nomination to run in the 2016 election. But analysts say they have forced other candidates to address contentious issues such as immigration and the growing rich-poor gap.