The outsiders are out, and the insiders are back in the running for the 2016 presidential election. At least that scenario has become more plausible as political newcomers like billionaire Donald Trump and neurosurgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who have been riding an anti-establishment wave that's put them at the top of Republican primary polls for months, could soon see themselves slip in the polls due to a renewed emphasis on national security and terrorism. In their place, political veterans like Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush -- in fifth place among GOP candidates -- could take over.
The Islamic State militant group's attacks in Paris that killed about 130 people Friday and left nearly triple that number injured have propelled national security into the political spotlight, likely making the 2016 race more about foreign policy more than ever. Although it's hard to predict what will be on voters' minds during next year's primaries and general election, political experts said certain campaigns stand to benefit -- or suffer -- from this new focus. Americans could gravitate toward career politicians while leaning away from inexperienced people. But having a history dealing with national security comes with a catch: The lawmakers must also defend their résumés.
"I think people have started to pay more attention," said Brian Katulis, a senior fellow specializing in U.S. national security policy in the Middle East and South Asia at the Center for American Progress, a policy institute in Washington. "These horrific attacks ... crystallized for people that this could happen anyplace."
The impact of the Paris tragedy and reinvigorated national security discussion could be more evident in the run-up to the general election, during which Clinton -- the secretary of state from 2009-13 -- is expected to rely heavily on her foreign policy record. But it's likely to be more obvious in the crowded GOP primary, which currently has 15 candidates. Trump and Carson have been leading the Republican polls due to conservatives' displeasure with the administration of President Barack Obama, but now voters might shift their support back to career politicians.
"Neither of them have a good grasp of the specifics of the United States’ various overseas commitments, and one has to think that they will suffer for this lack of experience if the election is about foreign policy issues," said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of the political newsletter Sabato's Crystal Ball out of the University of Virginia.
The electorate has proved it cares about national security. An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll found in May that 27 percent of likely Republican primary voters named it as their top priority for government action, while 13 percent of Democrats said the same.
After Friday's attacks, lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bush could gain exposure for their experience in public office. Rubio has bragged about the foreign policy chops he gained from serving on the Senate intelligence and foreign relations committees. In a May speech, he argued that the U.S. shouldn't be a "global policeman" but should take action to preserve world peace. Bush laid out his stance in August, calling for a no-fly zone in Syria and embedding American soldiers with Iraqi forces. At the same time, however, he said there wasn't a need for any "major commitment of American combat forces" there.
These sorts of proposals will probably become more compelling for voters in light of the attacks, Katulis said. They'll get more support than calls from candidates such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to increase military involvement overseas. Graham has denounced Obama's approach to battling ISIS, arguing: "It's going to take an army to beat an army."
However, Katulis said that Rubio's and Bush's positions have centered more on rhetoric than action. "It's hard to have with great clarity a view of what they would actually do differently from Obama," he said, adding that the overarching questions for 2016 are: "Can a person lead, and can we have confidence in that person leading?"
A Pew Research Center survey from January found that people 65 and older were more likely than 18- to 29-year-olds to be worried about an imminent terrorist attack in the U.S. This may be linked to interest in current events: After two gunmen fatally shot 12 people at the Paris offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in January, 15 percent of young adults said they were following the story "very closely." More than 40 percent of older adults said the same.
But it's not all bad news for Trump and Carson. Both men have taken strong anti-immigration stances, with the former repeatedly advocating for a wall along the border with Mexico and the latter declaring he couldn't support a Muslim president because of certain facets of Islamic law. If voters rally behind nativism as a result of the Paris killings, those outsider candidates could benefit, Kondik said.
In the meantime, likely nominee Clinton will use the Democratic primary race to sharpen her arguments for next November, as evidenced during Saturday night's Democratic presidential primary debate. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley criticized Clinton for her 2003 vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq and support of regime change there.
They're not Clinton's main threat on foreign policy, though; her tenure under President Barack Obama is, said Peter Feaver, a political science and public policy professor at Duke University. The White House has been criticized for being slow to respond to the threat of ISIS and declaring last week that the extremists' spread had been contained.
"The foreign policy legacy of Obama is the foreign policy legacy of Hillary Clinton," said Feaver, who served as the National Security Council's director of defense policy and arms control under former President Bill Clinton and special adviser for strategic planning and institutional reform under former President George W. Bush. "Her challenge going into the general election will be to somehow separate herself from the negative aspects of the legacy while claiming the positives."
To do this, Feaver added, Clinton will likely draw attention to the fact that she wanted to back the moderate rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar Assad in 2012 and leave American soldiers in Iraq in 2011. No matter who her opponent is, having history with national security could help as voters weigh who can keep them safe.
"In a moment like this, Americans say, 'Well, golly, the president needs to be a real commander in chief and manage real problems,'" Feaver said. "The candidates who look like they could really do that -- who have understanding of the issues and the gravitas to handle them in terms of responsibility rather than soundbites -- I think those candidates benefit."