If Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Run, Who Would Lead the Democratic Field for President?

Other potential Democratic candidates like Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Cuomo are largely unknown among potential voters, according to a new poll.

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
July 8, 2014, 5:24 a.m.

Hil­lary Clin­ton is al­most cer­tainly go­ing to run for pres­id­ent. But what if she doesn’t, and the Demo­crat­ic field winds up wide open?

If she chooses not to run, leav­ing the Demo­crat­ic nom­in­a­tion for pres­id­ent up for the tak­ing, Demo­crats would be in ac­tu­al dis­ar­ray, ac­cord­ing to a new Quin­nipi­ac poll re­leased Tues­day.

Right now, Clin­ton leads in the po­ten­tial Demo­crat­ic field with 58 per­cent, top­ping Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren of Mas­sachu­setts (11 per­cent), Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden (9 per­cent) and New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo (4 per­cent). Demo­crats clearly ex­pect Clin­ton will make a run for pres­id­ent, and they would gen­er­ally sup­port her can­did­acy if it hap­pens.

Clin­ton’s lead is much lar­ger than it was at this point in 2006 — after which she would even­tu­ally lose the nom­in­a­tion to a little-known sen­at­or from Illinois. In a June 2006 Gal­lup Poll, she led with 37 per­cent among Demo­crats in a the­or­et­ic­al 2008 match­up, fol­lowed by former Vice Pres­id­ent Al Gore at 16 per­cent, former Sen. John Ed­wards of North Car­o­lina at 13 per­cent, and Sec­ret­ary of State John Kerry at 12 per­cent.

But if you take Clin­ton out of the pic­ture for 2016, the rest of the field con­sists of can­did­ates whom Demo­crats either don’t want or don’t know.

Take Joe Biden. The vice pres­id­ent holds a strong 73 per­cent fa­vor­ab­il­ity rat­ing among Demo­crats, but, clearly, Demo­crats prefer oth­er people to him for the pres­id­ency. Biden is be­hind War­ren in this latest poll by a couple of per­cent­age points, and far be­hind Clin­ton.

While sev­er­al Demo­crats have high­er fa­vor­able than un­fa­vor­able rat­ings, the per­cent­age of people who haven’t heard enough about them is much high­er — 50 per­cent for Cuomo, 88 per­cent for Mary­land Gov. Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, 53 per­cent for War­ren, and 88 per­cent for former Montana Gov. Bri­an Sch­weitzer, ac­cord­ing to this poll.

If Clin­ton didn’t run, Demo­crats wouldn’t know enough about the rest of the the­or­et­ic­al field to have a clear front-run­ner.

Now, this all be­ing said, Barack Obama was al­most nowhere to be found at this point in the elec­tion cycle in 2006. He man­aged to get the sup­port of only 1 per­cent of all voters when they were asked in June 2006 whom they would most like to see elec­ted pres­id­ent in 2008. Obama didn’t start hint­ing he would run for pres­id­ent un­til later in the sum­mer.

People didn’t know much about Obama, but it worked out for him just fine. It could work out for an­oth­er Demo­crat, too.

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