Politics

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
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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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