In the 2016 Election, This Surprise Ticket Is Already Leading the Polls

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Marijuana.

A recent Washington Post breakdown of poll results in the swing states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida revealed that support for recreational marijuana legislation is actually higher than for any of the candidates themselves. In those three states, support for medicinal marijuana is well above 80%, thus making it more popular than the war on the Islamic State group.

Weed polls better than anyone. Basically, weed for president.

Here's Mic's visualization of the numbers:

The Washington Post tries to temper the results, but it makes a point: Marijuana is quickly becoming a "mainstream" issue that the candidates can no longer dodge. With more than half the country in favor of both recreational and medical marijuana and a rising sense of discontent with D.C., this issue could become the secret weapon for any candidate whose name isn't Bush or Clinton. Marijuana almost certainly isn't a golden ticket, but it might give the right candidate the kind of "maverick" appeal that John McCain once held in the 2000s.

Who might take the first puff: On the right, marijuana legalization's most likely champion is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. He's very much been playing up his appeal to younger voters and emphasizing his mostly libertarian positions on issues like sentencing reform and police violence. Paul has also already done concrete work on the issue, last month co-sponsoring a bill that would in part make it easier for veterans to access medical marijuana.

Unfortunately, few other Republican contenders seem likely to take this path. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie recently referred to Colorado's marijuana taxes as "blood money," Texas Sen. Ted Cruz's stance is muddled and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush can't even decide whether he'll send the Drug Enforcement Administration back to busting medical marijuana shops in Florida. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker? Forget about it as far as recreational weed is concerned, and a tepid maybe on medical marijuana.

Don't expect Hillary Clinton to come out in favor of legal recreational weed either. In the '90s, Clinton was busying herself rallying reactionary anger against the now-quaint issue of violent video games. She'll probably play it safe and hew to the middle. However, other Democrats like Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley or even Vice President Joe Biden (Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren probably isn't running) could embarrass her by getting in front on legal weed, which is massively popular among the Democratic base.

The bottom line: Support for legalizing weed has risen so quickly that it's not so much mainstream as starting to emerge on the other side of the creek. Average Americans have changed their attitudes on the subject so substantially that both parties' cautious approaches are beginning to look not just dated but tiresome.

New York City Police Commissioner Bill Brattonholds up a bag of oregano to demonstrate what 25 grams of marijuana looks like at a news conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce changes to New York City's marijuana policy, changes that have significantly reduced penalty for possession in the city. Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
New York City Police Commissioner Bill Brattonholds up a bag of oregano to demonstrate what 25 grams of marijuana looks like at a news conference with New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to announce changes to New York City's marijuana policy, changes that have significantly reduced penalty for possession in the city.  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

A few years from now, people may remember this election for boasting the first major presidential candidates to openly endorse marijuana legalization. The alternative — another four years of a senseless war on pot that costs billions and ruins countless lives — could only breed further distrust of the political class, which would only prove how stubbornly out of touch it really is.

h/t Washington Post