Poll: Clinton dominates early 2016 race; Warren gains on Biden as alternative

McClatchy Washington BureauDecember 10, 2013 


Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton


— At this early stage for the 2016 presidential campaign, it’s Hillary’s world, and everyone else just lives in it.

Hillary Clinton dominates the potential field of candidates for the Democratic nomination by huge margins, with a more than 5-to-1 advantage over her nearest rival and more than doubling the support of everyone else combined, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll. The Republican race is wide open, with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie slightly ahead. And Clinton has an edge or outright lead over any of them.

“It’s Hillary versus the pack for the nomination,” said Lee Miringoff, director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the poll.

“There is no strong contender against her,” he said. “She doesn’t want to use the word inevitable, but these numbers are as wide as they can get. She’s jogging around the track by herself.”

The former first lady, senator and secretary of state enjoys lopsided support among Democrats and Democratic-leading independents:

  • Clinton, 65 percent.
  • Vice President Joe Biden, 12 percent.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, 9 percent.
  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York, 3 percent.
  • Gov. Martin O’Malley of Maryland, 1 percent.

An early lead in the polls is far from a guarantee of success in the caucuses and primaries that start in about two years, of course. Clinton led by smaller margins in early polls for the 2008 nomination, only to be overtaken by Barack Obama, then a senator from Illinois.

“It’s a bad memory for her,” said Miringoff. “No one would ever willingly give up being a strong front-runner, but it’s hard to maintain. And if she decides to run, does anyone get in there to become the non-Hillary?”

Indeed, there’s already a surprisingly close contest to be the alternative between Biden, a familiar veteran after decades in politics, and Warren, a newcomer and hero to the party’s left wing.

“This is someone with much less name recognition than Biden,” said Miringoff. “We don’t know how much it speaks to Warren as to Biden.”

Warren told The Boston Globe last week that she was not running for president in 2016. It also noted that she had signed a letter urging Clinton to run.

Biden pulls out ahead if Clinton does not run, though Warren also gains support. How that four-person field stacks up:

  • Biden, 45 percent;
  • Warren, 25 percent;
  • Cuomo, 11 percent;
  • O’Malley, 4 percent.

“She is in position to emerge if Hillary does not make the bid,” said Miringoff. “Those are good early numbers for someone who is relatively new to the scene.”

The early race is not just about personalities or resumes. Democrats are split over how to proceed into a post- Obama era, with 49 percent hoping for a candidate who would follow Obama’s policies and 46 percent looking for a candidate who will move in a different direction.

Leading the push to stay on the Obama track: liberals and strong Democrats. Angling for a new direction: moderates, conservatives and self-identified “soft” Democrats.

Among those who want to stay on the Obama course, Clinton’s support grows. Conversely, Warren’s support doubles among those who want the party to take a different approach.

At this stage, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are wide open in their preferences:

  • Gov. Christie of New Jersey, 18 percent;
  • Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, 12 percent;
  • Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, 11 percent;
  • Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 10 percent;
  • Former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida, 10 percent;
  • Former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, 8 percent;
  • Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 7 percent;
  • Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 4 percent;
  • Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, 4 percent;
  • Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, 3 percent.

“Christie benefits from a very crowded field,” said Miringoff. “His base is very different.”

Christie’s support is larger than his overall numbers among moderates, independents, college graduates, those earning more than $50,000 a year and those older than 45.

Paul’s support grows among independents, but also among tea party supporters, non-college graduates and younger voters. Paul told the Lexington Herald-Leader this week that “it’s not a slam dunk that I’m running.”

Also, Christie holds his own among the 67 percent of Republicans who want a nominee who will stand on conservative principles. They divide almost evenly among Christie, Paul, Ryan and Cruz.

But the 31 percent who look to “winability” as the key factor break heavily toward Christie.

“It speaks to his appeal among more moderate and pragmatic Republicans,” said Miringoff.

Some potential candidates are marginally gaining support in the early going, some losing support.

Inching up: Christie, Paul, Cruz, Walker and Santorum. Inching down: Ryan.

The biggest loser is Rubio, who has lost 5 points and now trails Palin. “It hasn’t been the best run for him since summer,” said Miringoff. “And Cruz has come on.”

In a hypothetical general election matchup, Clinton has an edge over Christie and a double-digit lead against anyone else. She leads:

  • Christie 48-45;
  • Rubio 52-42;
  • Bush 53-41;
  • Paul 55-40;
  • Ryan 56-40;
  • Perry 58-37;
  • Cruz 57-35;
  • Palin 59-36.

Christie does better among Democrats and moderates against Clinton than his fellow Republicans. He also does better among men, which a Republican needs to offset the Democrats’ usual lead among women.

“He chips away a little,” said Miringoff. “But Clinton has her way with the crowd.”


This survey of 1,173 adults was conducted Dec. 3-5. Adults 18 years of age and older residing in the continental United States were interviewed by telephone using live interviewers. Landline telephone numbers were randomly selected based upon a list of telephone exchanges from throughout the nation from ASDE Survey Sampler, Inc. The exchanges were selected to ensure that each region was represented in proportion to its population. To increase coverage, this landline sample was supplemented by respondents reached through random dialing of cell phone numbers from Survey Sampling International. The two samples were then combined and balanced to reflect the 2010 Census results for age, gender, income, race, and region. Results are statistically significant within plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. There are 988 registered voters. The results for this subset are statistically significant within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. The error margin increases for cross-tabulations.

Email: sthomma@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @stevethomma

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