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Mara Liasson

At a Manchester, N.H., watch party following Saturday's Democratic primary debate, Hillary Clinton stood side by side with the man she called her "not so secret weapon" — her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Voters are about to see much more of him, she said.

Editor's Note: Some readers might find some of the language below offensive.

This post was updated at 11:30 a.m. ET

Donald Trump has made his most outrageous statement yet in a string of beyond-the-pale utterances.

Sometimes being in the White House briefing has a "down the rabbit hole" quality to it.

Today I inadvertently started Comb-overgate with an innocent question.

When spokesman Josh Earnest comes in to the briefing room, he often brings prepared remarks on questions he has anticipated.

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At every turn, this year's presidential campaign has proved conventional wisdom wrong. The aftermath of the Paris attacks might be another example.

As soon as the attacks were over, a chorus of (establishment) Republican voices predicted that the new focus on national security and terrorism would change the dynamic of the Republican race. This was the tipping point, they declared, that would finally usher out the outsiders leading the polls — Donald Trump and Ben Carson — in favor of more serious, experienced candidates.

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It's now within a year of Election Day 2016. The Republican race for the nomination is still completely unsettled, the Democratic race a little less. But hardly anything has worked out according to conventional wisdom.

With that caveat, here are five big things that (we think!) will help determine the outcome of next year's election.

1. Voter mood

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And we'll hear more about the debate and the presidential race from NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Hi Mara.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hi Robert.

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Since 1960, the Democrats were the party that nominated new generation candidates. Three of them — Kennedy, Clinton and Obama — won the White House. Republicans nominated old guys, whether they lost — think Dole, McCain and Romney — or won, like Ronald Reagan. But this year, the geezers are on the Democratic side. Hillary Clinton is 67, Bernie Sanders is 74 and, if he gets in, Joe Biden is 72. On the Republican side, for a change, it's a completely different story.

This post was updated at 4:00 p.m. ET Thursday

Reading the tea leaves about Vice President Biden's intentions has become a consuming parlor game in Washington.

Political junkies and journalists have been breathlessly speculating about whether Biden will get into the Democratic presidential race. Every phone call from a Biden aide is examined for hidden meaning.

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Republicans have been talking about reforming their party since President Obama's re-election in 2012. The recent Supreme Court rulings on same-sex marriage and Obamacare and the reversal of several Southern Republican governors on the Confederate battle flag gave the GOP a new chance. But change can be hard.

In presidential years, the party has a math problem, according to GOP strategist Steve Schmidt. He points out that while Democrats are attracting growing segments of the population, like Latinos and Asians, Republicans are relying on their traditional base of white voters.

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Chris Christie is joining a crowded race.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOBBY JINDAL: My name is Bobby Jindal.

CARLY FIORINA: I'm Carly Fiorina.

BEN CARSON: Now I've introduced my family you say, well, who are you?

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This story is part of NPR's series Journey Home. We're going to the places presidential candidates call home and finding out what those places tell us about how they see the world.

There are three Republican candidates who ran Spanish-language ads when they announced their presidential intentions — but only one was an Anglo.

Hillary Clinton's campaign for president is about to enter a new phase. At her first big rally this Saturday in New York City, she will make an unusually personal speech about how her upbringing forged her commitment to helping others.

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