All the variables that predict primary winners from polling to endorsements are working more in her favor than in 2008
Hillary Clinton remains the most formidable presidential nomination frontrunner for a non-incumbent in the modern era. As I wrote about last year, Clinton’s combination of a number of factors made her strength pretty much unprecedented. Clinton has, if anything, become stronger over the last 12 months.
Clinton’s polling among Democrats is still incredible. The latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey has her at 67% of the vote among Democrats nationally. That compares to 61% in December 2012. The fact that her numbers have if anything gone up is a very good sign for her. It shows that her numbers weren’t merely inflated because she held the non-partisan secretary of state position, as they were for general election electorate.
Some might want to dismiss the predictiveness of early polling. Some may want to point to Clinton or Rudy Giuliani in 2008. The problem with that point of view in my opinion is that most early front-runners didn’t put up anywhere near the same numbers Clinton is doing for 2016. Clinton was about 30pt lower in 2008 than she is now. Giuliani was about 35pt lower than Clinton now.
Other candidates too were simply not close. George W Bush was stuck in the mid 20s for the 2000 Republican nomination. His father was in the low 40s for 1988. Colin Powell was in the mid 20s and mid 30s for his 1996 and 2000 no-goes respectively. Bob Dole was in the high 30s for 1996.
The only candidate anywhere close to Clinton was Al Gore for 2000. Gore had long been in the upper 40s to mid 50s. Gore went on to waltz to the nomination in the single strongest non-incumbent performance in the modern era. He won every single primary and took 76% of the primary vote.
Clinton’s numbers look a lot more like an incumbent. Bush was in the low 70s for 1992. Clinton was in the low 60s to low 70s for 1996. Obama mostly was in the low to mid 60s for 2012, even when matched up against Hillary Clinton.
Moreover, Clinton’s edge extends to the early caucus and primary states. You national numbers can be amazing, but if you don’t win either Iowa or New Hampshire, you’re likely not going anywhere. Clinton is in the mid 60s in New Hampshire and the low 70s in Iowa.
A peak under the hood should give Clinton more confidence. Her favorable rating among Democrats nationally per Quinnipiac is 90% compared to just 4% who viewed her unfavorably. That suggests that it isn’t just name recognition that is catapulting Clinton at this time.
Almost all other factors that made Clinton strong when I wrote my last article remain the same. She’s got the organization in place in the early states thanks to her 2008 run, while pretty much any other candidate would need to start fresh. Clinton remains incredibly well polished in public speaking, as she was in 2008. I mean she says pretty much nothing to possibly get in trouble.
Importantly, there is no sign of anyone like Barack Obama contemplating a run. Clinton’s coalition of women, non-college educated whites, and Latinos was just beat out by Obama’s of African-Americans, college-eduated whites, and young voters. All Clinton needs to do is take a little bit of Obama’s 2008 base to ensure his nomination.
The only candidate in my mind who could catch fire, Massachusetts’ Senator Liz Warren, has already declared her support for Clinton. In fact, every single female Democratic senator is behind Clinton. What a difference that is from 2008.
Much of the establishment was actually encouraging Obama to run in 2008. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid weren’t backing Clinton. Claire McCaskill’s endorsement of Obama in 2008 was particularly memorable. All three of them are now openly pleading for and endorsing Clinton for 2016.
That’s big news because a candidate who clearly wins the “invisible primary” usually takes the nomination. Primary voters can get confused between candidates whose ideology is very similar, so they look to the party elders. It’s how Mitt Romney was able to take down Newt Gingrich in 2012. Clinton will have invisible primary advantage, which she didn’t have in 2008.
Overall, there are many reasons to think Hillary Clinton will win the 2016 nomination, if she were to run. There are not many reasons to think she’s going to repeat her 2008 performance. Every factor that forecasts nomination winners points more strongly in her direction than it did eight years ago. Now none of this means Clinton will take the general election, though you have to get there first to have a shot.
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