Why You Shouldn’t Pay Attention to Hillary Clinton’s Massive 2016 Lead

The former secretary of State leads in a field of two candidates two years out. Sound familiar?

National Journal
Matt Vasilogambros
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Matt Vasilogambros
Jan. 30, 2014, 4:11 a.m.

There’s a new poll out Thursday morn­ing, and it con­firms what Wash­ing­ton pun­dits have talked about for months and years: Hil­lary Clin­ton leads the Demo­crat­ic field for pres­id­ent in 2016. Duh.

The head­line for the Wash­ing­ton Post story on the poll reads, “For 2016, Hil­lary Clin­ton has com­mand­ing lead over Demo­crats.” What the head­line doesn’t men­tion is that her lead is over two oth­er Demo­crats named in the poll: Vice Pres­id­ent Joe Biden and Sen. Eliza­beth War­ren of Mas­sachu­setts. None of the three has con­firmed 2016 pres­id­en­tial as­pir­a­tions.

Of course, Clin­ton leads the field. She is the most widely talked about “can­did­ate” for pres­id­ent in 2016. But she hasn’t an­nounced her can­did­acy, nor has she set up any com­mit­tees.

Does this sound fa­mil­i­ar?

Gal­lup took a sim­il­ar poll around the same time out from the 2008 elec­tion, in Feb­ru­ary 2006. Clin­ton again led the Demo­crat­ic field. She led over such even­tu­al non­can­did­ates as John Kerry, Al Gore, Mark Warner, and Russ Fein­gold. Even­tu­al can­did­ates John Ed­wards and Joe Biden were also in­cluded in the poll, though. Even­tu­al win­ner Barack Obama was not.

There is, however, an im­port­ant dif­fer­ence between the 2006 poll and the one re­leased Thursday: Today, Clin­ton’s lead is much wider. She led her nearest “op­pon­ent” in the 2006, Kerry, by 39 per­cent to 15 per­cent. In the latest Wash­ing­ton Post/ABC News poll, Clin­ton leads Biden 73 per­cent to 12 per­cent.

And that’s partly be­cause there are cur­rently few­er vi­able can­did­ates in the Demo­crat­ic field. Who else could run? Bey­ond the three lis­ted in the poll, one of whom — War­ren — has already “en­dorsed” Clin­ton for 2016, there aren’t many more Demo­crats out there who seem will­ing to run just yet. Demo­crat­ic gov­ernors like Mary­land’s Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, New York’s An­drew Cuomo, and Mas­sachu­setts’ Dev­al Patrick have not hin­ted at cam­paigns, and their po­ten­tial na­tion­al ap­peal is pretty ques­tion­able at this point.

There could be oth­er Demo­crats out there brave enough to stand up against the Clin­ton Ma­chine, one of whom is former Montana Gov. Bri­an Sch­weitzer. But it re­mains to be seen who else could join the field. And there is only so much time left.

So, we have yet an­oth­er poll that shows Clin­ton lead­ing the field. As Guy Cecil, ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Demo­crat­ic Sen­at­ori­al Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, joked Thursday morn­ing, “I love that old polit­ic­al ad­age: The only poll that counts is the one three years be­fore the elec­tion.”

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