WASHINGTON - The 2016 presidential election will be remembered as one of the most bizarre political contests in modern American history.
The two major party nominees are drawing the highest unfavorable ratings since political pollsters began asking that question. Both candidates are not fully addressing the issues voters rank among their chief concerns: accelerating weak economic growth, boosting new job-creating investment in business startups, and increasing middle-class incomes by cutting tax rates.
Large numbers of voters say they think Hillary Clinton is untrustworthy or downright dishonest. Donald Trump is so disliked by a sizable portion of his own deeply divided party that many of its leaders will not be attending next week's Republican National Convention.
Clinton is the first nominee to be the target of a year-long FBI investigation into her mishandling of top-secret and other classified information, which accused her of being "extremely careless" and guilty of "gross negligence."
When Trump began his presidential campaign last year, he said his No. 1 issue was building a wall across our 2,000 mile-plus border with Mexico to prevent immigrants from illegally entering the United States. But just 34 percent of Americans said they supported building the wall, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted earlier this year.
In poll after poll that asked Americans about their chief concerns about their country, immigration ranked low on the list, according to Gallup. Yet Trump has made the deportation of an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants one of his highest priorities if he is elected president in November.
In a sweeping condemnation of illegal Hispanics at the start of his campaign, he seemingly accused most of them of being rapists, murderers and drug dealers, saying only that "some" were good people that he would later allow to return to the U.S.
Did Trump really mean what he said? Or was he laying the groundwork of his campaign by reaching out to voters for whom immigration was their top concern, knowing that universal deportation was a promise he couldn't keep and that Congress would never ratify?
Questions about that issue were raised again when he said former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was one of the people he was considering for his vice president.
Gingrich made history during his tenure when he and other House GOP leaders ran on a reform agenda called their "Contract With America" that swept the Democrats from power. But Gingrich had other ideas about immigration that are not in sync with Trump's scorched-earth policy, and he laid them out in a debate during his 2012 presidential campaign.
"I do not believe that the people of the United States are going to take people who have been here a quarter century, who have children and grandchildren, who are members of the community, who may have done something 25 years ago, separate them from their families and expel them," he said.
"I do believe if you've been here recently and have no ties to the U.S., we should deport you. I do believe we should control the border," he added. But the "party that says it's the party of the family is not going to adopt an immigration policy which destroys families. I'm prepared to take the heat for saying, let's be humane in enforcing the law without giving them citizenship but by finding a way to create legality so that they are not separated from their families."
Surely Trump thoroughly vetted his choices for the vice presidency, but did he deliberately add Gingrich to his final short list, fully knowing what Newt stated in 2012? Was he sending a message to his followers that he was modifying his position on illegal immigrants? Or was he just playing political games with the issue?
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, another possibility on Trump's veep list, offered an immigration bill in 2006 when he was a House member that would have created a guest-worker system. But it would have required illegals to leave the U.S. before they could enroll in the plan.
Pence, whose Irish grandfather immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1900s, once told President George W. Bush, "We're a nation of immigrants. I don't just get it. I lived it."
He has said that he supports Trump's security plan for the border, but said he does not think Trump will "follow through" on his proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. But does he support Trump's proposed plan to round up and deport 11 million undocumented Latino migrants and their families? That's not entirely clear right now.
What is clear is that Trump needs an experienced hand to deal with Congress, negotiate with its power brokers and be skillful in the "art of the deal" -- otherwise known as "compromise."
Trump acknowledges that as he has looked to former members of Congress. Certainly, Gingrich is the ultimate legislative dealmaker who knows how to play one interest group against another. But he can sometimes be a loose cannon, not content to just quietly work behind the scenes. Yet he knows how the legislative system works and has a number of victories under his belt.
Pence, however, is nowhere near that level and has no really significant achievements as a legislator.
Let's get a few things straight. Trump's 10- to 20-foot wall is not going to be built, and, no, Mexico isn't going to foot the multibillion-dollar bill to pay for it. It could never pass muster in Congress, especially with so many other higher-priority budget issues facing GOP lawmakers, including rapidly mushrooming Social Security and Medicare costs.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Many voters are still trying to figure out whom they can support, or whether they will even vote.