Hillary Clinton Gets Some Good Polling News Ahead Of First Democratic Debate

With the first Democratic Presidential Debate just hours away, Hillary Clinton got some good polling news from Fox News Channel.

Hillary Clinton Holds Campaign Roundtable In Las Vegas

With the five Democratic candidates for President set to meet this evening in Las Vegas, there’s some good news for Hillary Clinton in a new Fox News Channel poll:

Vice President Joe Biden trails Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination, yet he looks more electable than the former secretary of state against top Republicans.

As Democrats prepare for their first debate Tuesday evening, the latest Fox News national poll finds little movement in the primary. Clinton remains the front-runner among Democratic primary voters (45 percent), with Bernie Sanders (25 percent) and Biden (19 percent) behind her by about 20 percentage points. That’s almost identical to where things stood three weeks ago.

Lincoln Chafee, Larry Lessig, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb each receive 1 percent or less.

Biden, who has yet to announce his candidacy, was invited to participate in the debate if he were to make it official; Lessig was not invited.

In hypothetical 2016 matchups with top-tier Republicans, Clinton trails all the Republicans tested. She trails Ben Carson by 11 points and Donald Trump by 5 points. Jeb Bush has a 4-point edge over Clinton, while Carly Fiorina is up by 3 points.

Biden fares better. He leads Trump by 13 points and tops Bush by 5 points. Biden is preferred over both Fiorina and Carson by 4 points. And Biden narrowly bests Marco Rubio by 1 point.

Though Clinton still dominates the Democratic primary race, the new poll confirms a significant decline in her support since summer. In June, her lead over Sanders was double what it is today (61 percent Clinton vs. 15 percent Sanders). And instead of trailing Trump by 5 points, she topped him by 17 points. Clinton was also up by 6 points over Fiorina then, while she’s down by 3 now.

As a preliminary note, I would tend to discount at this point the head-to-head numbers that show Clinton trailing her potential Republican opponents while Joe Biden leads them. First of all, while we are well into the weeds of the races for the party nomination, the General Election itself is still thirteen months away and won’t really begin until the Republicans and Democrats hold their conventions next summer. Polling of that race at this point, when neither party has even selected their nominee and it’s not entirely clear what the main issues of the campaign will be, is really quite premature and not entirely useful for much of anything. With reference to Biden specifically, as with his polling in the Democratic field much of his showing in these head-to-head polls can be attributed to the fact that he isn’t running right now. If that changes, it’s likely that his numbers will fall just as Clinton’s did. So while Republicans are likely to point to those numbers as if they are something significant, I’d recommend ignoring them for now.

Turning to the race for the race for the Democratic nomination, while these numbers are far below where Clinton was when the race began at the start of the summer, what’s notable is that Clinton seems to have halted her slide in the national polls that made up so much of the news during the time period. To a large degree, of course, much of that decline can likely be attributed to the ongoing news that has been coming out on a regular basis regarding Clinton’s use of a private email server while Secretary of State and the question of whether she handled classified information properly while using that system. Additionally, though, Clinton seems to have been a victim of both her own rather lackluster campaigning, the candidates who are in the race, and one potential candidate who has spent the better part of two months quite openly stoking speculation about his own plans. On the email side, the campaign’s response to the growing story over the summer seemed to vacillate between dismissing the story entirely and hoping that it will just go away. Since that hasn’t happened, the story has hung over her for months now, and is likely to be something that will come up in tonight’s debate. At the same time, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who now leads Clinton in the polls in New Hampshire and has become quite strong in Iowa, has captured a significant amount of attention and support among some Democrats, something that is perhaps best demonstrated by the fact that Sanders raised nearly as much as Clinton did in the just-concluded fundraising quarter. Finally, for the past two months Vice-President Biden has been quite openly engaging in the process of deciding whether or not he’s running for President. He hasn’t announced his intentions yet, and he won’t be at tonight’s debate, but he’s obviously having an impact on the polls as these numbers suggest, and he appears to be hurting Clinton more than Sanders at this point. In the Fox poll, for example, a poll question that excludes Biden from the list of potential candidates has Clinton leading Sanders 54% to 28%, which is consistent with other numbers we’ve seen from other recent polls.

Given all of this, it’s not surprising that we would see Clinton’s numbers decline from the high’s that they were at before this race really started, and of course that’s led many pundits to suggest that Clinton’s campaign is “in trouble,” especially if Biden gets in the race. When you look at the numbers, though, that really doesn’t seem to be the case. As Chris Cillizza notes this afternoon, this poll is largely good news for Hillary Clinton because it tends to show that the slide that she took over the summer has stopped and may indeed be starting to reverse itself. To some degree, Clinton has been helped in her standing among Democrats by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s recent comments about the Select Committee investigating the Benghazi as well as revelations over the weekend by a former committee staffer who said he was directed to focus his work on Hillary Clinton rather than the Benghazi attack itself. Looking at the numbers, you can see evidence of a recent turnaround in both the RealClearPolitics and Pollster national averages as well. Obviously, Clinton is not in the same near-prohibitive position she was in prior to the start of the campaign, but she’s still very well positioned, and assuming that Vice-President Biden doesn’t run, and I agree with Daniel Drezner that all signs point to him not getting in the race at this point, we’ll likely see her numbers improve as we get closer to the Iowa Caucuses unless something disastrous happens to her campaign.

As for tonight’s debate itself, the question going is whether Clinton will be able to use it to shore up some of the problems she’s been having of late and continue to climb back up in the polls moving forward. Clinton’s last televised debate was aired some seven and a half years ago when she was fighting Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination in 2008, and while it’s unclear what she’ll be like after all this time it is quite true that she tends to come across very well in these forums. Bernie Sanders is a less conventional politician and it’s unclear how he’ll come across on a national stage, but it’s perhaps even more important to see if he ends up attacking Clinton more directly than he has so far on the campaign trail. The same is true of the other candidates in the race, Martin O”Malley, Jim Webb, and Lincoln Chafee, all of whom are barely registering in the polls at this point. Even more than Sanders, these three candidates may seek to use tonight’s debate as an opportunity to grab some national attention. In the end, though, much of the story of tonight’s debate will depend on Clinton herself and how she does. Clinton herself is likely to face at least some attacks over her recent shifts in policy that seem to be clearly in response to the rise of Bernie Sanders. If she does well, though, then she will likely to continue to shore up her support heading into the important November through January period before voting begins. If she doesn’t, or if other candidates are perceived as having scored points against her, then the speculation about Vice-President Biden entering the race is likely to be ratcheted up. In the end, then, this is all largely in Hillary’s hands.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    Good analysis. The head-to-heads are meaningless at this point. Biden is a sentimental favorite and Hillary is at what I suspect will be her nadir coming off bad publicity and what I suspect is a deliberate strategy of low-key campaigning.

    We’ve hit peak Trump with many in the Batshit Caucus now backing the manifestly insane Dr. Carson. The weakness of Mr. Bush is amazingly persistent. The establishment is feeling around for a candidate. They seem not to have embraced Ms. Fiorina, and are now trying to convince themselves Marco Rubio is the guy. Maybe he is at that. I certainly prefer Rubio to Kasich as an opponent.

  2. stonetools says:

    Hillary is usually a good debater, so I suspect she will do quite well.My recollection that she was seen as getting the better of Obama in the 2008 debates.
    The main thing dragging her down has been the e-mail “scandal” but that appears to be evaporating fast as an issue and it will likely be the Republicans who will be on defense at her hearing later this month.
    A strong performance tonight will most likely stall Sander’s rise, keep Biden on the sidelines, and reassure her donors. It’s in her hands.

  3. MarkedMan says:

    Hillary plays the long game, and I suspect she’s taking Napoleon’s (?) advice at the moment: Never interrupt your opponent when they are making a mistake. The Republicans are doing great damage to themselves that will only become apparent in the general. She, and the other Dems for that matter, are very wisely letting them ramp each other up, and her campaign is no doubt carefully storing up quotes from each of them to be used in micro targeting constituencies later on (I mean, can you imagine how Bush’s anchor baby comment would play in the Asian community?).

    But if she has a serious campaign weakness it is her inability to adjust her long game when the circumstances change. She played a magnificent long game against Obama, but took far too long to respond when the game shifted.

  4. CSK says:

    I think the damage the Republicans are doing to themselves now is very apparent. The Trump Brigade, which claims to be in the millions (I doubt it, but that’s neither here nor there), is intent on destroying any other Republican candidate, particularly Bush, for whom they have an insane hatred. Kasich has no shot whatsoever at the nomination. If Rubio gets it, the Trump Brigade will sit out the election. Carson doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Forget Fiorina, Huckabee, et al. Even Ted Cruz is too liberal for the Trumpets, which is a fine indicator of how loosely these people are tethered to reality.

    If Trump is the nominee, the Democratic nominee will win, whoever he or she is, and the Democrats will take back the house and senate.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    Whenever I think about saying so-and-so will never get the nomination…I remember “Morning Joe” saying Obama would never be President.
    Just sayin’

  6. CSK says:

    @C. Clavin:

    I see your point, but when you’re talking about the Republican “base,” you’re talking about people who wouldn’t vote for Romney–or claimed they wouldn’t vote for him–because Romney’s a socialist. Anyone who truly believes that is living in an alternate universe.

    The base was thwarted of a Palin run in 2012. They blamed that on the evil machinations of Karl Rove and Mitt Romney, despite the fact that it was clear to any sentient being that Palin had no intention of giving up her career as a reality show starlet to do anything that involves actual work. These people are the current Trump fans, and they’re by several orders of magnitude more angry and irrational than they were four years ago.

    Trump is like a male uber-Palin, or Palin on steroids. He’s a misogynist racist oaf who throws read meat to the mob. And they love it.

  7. Tyrell says:

    This “debate” will probably be a fairly flat, dull few hours. Maybe Sanders will liven things up. I don’t look for any surprises. The “moderator” will of course have scripted, rehearsed questions. The whole thing is staged, planned, and regulated to avoid the important questions, questions that might just rock the boat.
    I hope Sanders isn’t pushed around and has his mic stolen from him again. Maybe Hillary and Jim Webb will step up and guard him.

  8. grumpy realist says:

    @Tyrell: As long as they ask decent questions that bring out the difference in policies among the candidates, I don’t care. Boring? Politics should be boring. It should be of interest only to people who insist that 2 + 2 = 4, that numbers add up correctly, that prudence and careful extrapolation are behind suggested policies, and that we all be cautious of people who insist that they have The Answer To Solve X.

    Instead, we get the American political process. Sigh.

  9. Smooth Jazz says:

    Good Polling News!!! LOLOLOLOL. I see that OTB has gone completely left wing after being a fairly balanced, moderate site for many years. LMAO.

    Only a far left wing site with HillaryBot Sychophants can be in such denial and claim this poll is good news for Hillary. This is a candidate with favorable numbers in the 30%s (CBS which is not a right wing poll had her at 33% favorability the other day), where 60% of the country thinks she’s a liar and who is universally well known, who is polling around 40% against Rep candidates nationally these days. In case you didn’t notice, she is getting spanked by all the Reps in this poll, including down more than 10 points to Ben Carson. BEN CARSON!! I know I know, the polls are skewed, we should ignore the horse race poll at this early stage, blah blah blah. Have you seen her numbers against Rep candidates in IA, CO, PA, NH, etc etc etc these days??


    She is also getting trounced by almost all the Repub candidates in all the swing states these days for goodness sakes. How is this poll good news and how does she get to 50% from 40% will these negatives?? Good grief.

    Stay in denial and carry on. LOLOLOL.

  10. CSK says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Because the Republican candidate she beats is Donald Trump, and Trump’s the Republican frontrunner.

  11. Steve Evets says:

    Well, the Bernsters will never accept this because they only believe polls that show Hillary doing worse or their guy doing better.

    Biden is just 6 points behind Sanders? Not bad for someone who has not yet announced while Sanders has been campaigning nonstop.

    Hey, I bet Hillary wishes she was 26 points behind Sanders because then he would be doomed.
    Well, probably not.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    Hillary earned a solid A.

    Bernie preached to his choir effectively, but I think he also closed the door on any expansion of support. He gets a B+.

    Martin O’Malley did well, but he was too narrow-cast on his electric grid. I give him a B as a candidate and a B+ as Hillary’s catspaw in the early innings.

    Webb came off very badly indeed. That was a D-. That was bad.

    And Howdy-Doody was there, too.

    And the big loser? Joe Biden.

    My predictions: Hillary’s numbers will start a slow rise. Bernie’s will hold for a month but not rise and then start their inevitable fall. O’Malley will take the Biden voters. Biden will stay out on the grounds that Bernie is already playing the role of the wacky-uncle-who-will-say-anything.

  13. Tillman says:

    Feel like Lincoln Chafee locked himself out of his car and just bumbled on stage through a series of wacky misadventures.

    @michael reynolds: On the other hand, we’re all fairly sure Jim Webb has killed a man.

  14. michael reynolds says:
  15. grumpy realist says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m still going to vote for Bernie (if he’s still in the race by the time the primaries come around here), simply to indicate “I like his ideas”.

    Hillary as candidate is going to drive the misogynistic wacko spew out of the Republican Party to the max, however.

    I really don’t see how the fever on the Republican Party side is going to break. Who’s going to stuff the John Birchers back in the closet? At the moment they’re running the party.