The 2016 Democratic Nomination Is Hillary’s If She Wants It

For the moment, Hillary Clinton looks unbeatable if she chooses to run in 2016

Hillary Clinton Speaking

We are still several years away from even the beginning of the 2016 election cycle but, according to a new Public Policy Polling poll, Hillary Clinton is the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic Nomination:

On the Democratic side support for Hillary Clinton to be the party nominee has hit its highest level of support in our national polling since the election last year. 64% of the party’s voters want her to be the candidate to 18% for Joe Biden, 5% for Elizabeth Warren, and 3% for Andrew Cuomo with no one else polling above 2%. Clinton has majority support from liberals and moderates, men and women, African Americans, Latinos, and white voters, and voters within every age group that we track.

If Clinton doesn’t run 49% of Democrats say they would support Biden to 11% for Warren, 10% for Cuomo, and 7% for Kirsten Gillibrand with no one else above 3%. And if neither Clinton nor Biden runs Democrats have no clue who they want- 22% go for Cuomo and 18% for Warren but the big winner is someone else or undecided at 36%.

Clinton also fares well against potential Republican candidates:

When it comes to general election match ups Hillary Clinton leads the Republicans we tested against her by margins ranging from 4 to 7 points. Chris Christie comes the closest at 46/42, followed by Rand Paul at 49/43 and then Marco Rubio at 49/42 and Paul Ryan at 50/43. We’ve consistently found that Christie would be the strongest Republican candidate but the problem for him is that Obama voters (42/24) like him better than Romney voters (36/31), which could making securing the nomination a problem.

The usual caveats apply. This is a very early poll. With the exception of Vice-President Biden, none of the other potential Democratic nominees has significant national name recognition, and none of them have close to the notoriety of the former Secretary of State. Additionally, it’s worth noting that polls taken this early in the 2008 and 2012 cycles were not really a good guide or how the nomination fights actually ended up turning out. Indeed, Hillary was leading the 2008 polling for a long, long time until a guy name Barack Obama. At this point, we don’t even know if Mrs. Clinton is going to run in 2016, or Vice-President Biden for that matter. The 2016 Democratic field could end up being one of the most wide-open fields we’ve seen in some time, perhaps as wide-open as the Democratic fields in 1988 and 1992. So, to tome extent all of this speculation this far in advance isn’t entirely worthwhile.

One exception to that is an argument that David Frum raised last week when he argued that Democrats should hope that Hillary Clinton doesn’t run in 2016:

Hillary Clinton is 14 years older than Barack Obama. A party has never nominated a leader that much older than his immediate predecessor. (The previous record-holder was James Buchanan, 13 years older than Franklin Pierce when the Democrats chose him in 1856. Runner-up: Dwight Eisenhower, 12 years older than his predecessor, Thomas Dewey.)

Parties have good reasons to avoid reaching back to politicians of prior generations. When they do, they bring forward not only the ideas of the past, but also the personalities and the quarrels of the past.

One particular quarrel that a Hillary Clinton nomination would bring forward is the quarrel over the ethical standards of the Clinton White House — and, maybe even more, of the Clintons’ post-White House careers. Relying on Hillary Clinton’s annual financial disclosure reports, CNN reported last year that former President Bill Clinton had earned $89 million in speaking fees since leaving the White House in 2001. Many of these earnings came from foreign sources. In 2011 alone, the former president earned $6.1 million from 16 speeches in 11 foreign countries.

At his blog today Frum expands on this argument by listing the areas that the Democratic Party would leave unresolved if Clinton were the nominee:

The next Democratic nominee, if successful, will serve into the 2020s at least. That’s a long time to spend on “consolidation” – extra long for a party that puts so much emphasis on policy innovation. A Democratic party that wins a third consecutive mandate in 2016 will want to do things. But what things? Here are some important pieces of unfinished business from the Obama years that a re-elected in 2016 Democratic party must resolve:

* Were President Obama’s counter-terrorism policies effective and necessary? Or did they over-reach and violate important liberties?

* Is Obamacare a charter for regulated competition among private health insurers? Or is it a deeply flawed half-way step on the way to Medicare for all?

* Should government continue to finance and support industries and firms, as the Obama administration has done? Or should government pull back to a more New Democratic approach of letting the market lead?

* How much should the interests of the native-born working class matter on issues like energy and immigration, vs how much for the party’s new constituencies among upper-income professionals and recent migrants?

If these issues don’t get discussed in the course of a presidential primary, when do they get discussed?

It’s worth noting that a party holding on to the White House for more than two Presidential terms is relatively rare historically. Eisenhower was followed by Kennedy, Kennedy/Johnson were followed  by Nixon, Nixon/Ford were followed by Carter, and Clinton was followed by George W. Bush.The only time a party has held onto the Presidency after two full terms since the passage of the 22nd Amendment was when Reagan’s two terms were followed by George H.W. Bush, and he was only able to hold onto office for a single term. Depending on what the state of the economy, and the world, actually is in 2016, it may be next to impossible for any Democrat to win the White House. In that kind of a situation, Democrats would be more likely to want to back a candidate who seems to have a good shot at winning rather than engaging in some long-winded debate about the future of the party.

More importantly, though, I’m not sure why Frum thinks that a Hillary Clinton candidacy would preclude the Democratic Party from engaging in the kind of debate that he seems to think is so important. After all, even with her current overwhelming popularity, it’s absurd to think that Clinton will be the only Democrat running in 2016. There will be other candidates, many of them eager for the opportunity to take a shot at the frontrunner, and the press will be right there to cover it. Many of the questions that Frum asks are the very ones such a candidate would likely raise, so the voters will get at least some opportunity to hear debate about the future of their party. Additionally, I disagree with Frum that a Clinton candidacy would necessarily lead to a rehashing of all the Bill Clinton era questions. By the time 2016 rolls around, President Clinton will have been out of office 16 years, and there will be an entire generation of voters for whom his Presidency is a vague memory at best. The Clinton they’ll be most aware of will be the one running for the nomination, not her husband, and so far it appears that they’ll have a pretty positive opinion of her.

Finally, we must all remember that even with these numbers, it’s still possible that Clinton would not win the nomination if she chose to run. As I noted above, she was in a similar position eight years ago and ended up being bested by an upshot Senator from Illinois. That could happen all over again. Or Clinton could stumble during the race as she did a few times in 2008. So, there’s nothing guaranteed here. At the moment, though, it appears that if Hillary wants to run she’s going to be in a very strong position.

FILED UNDER: 2016 Election, Public Opinion Polls, Terrorism, 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. PJ says:

    A party has never nominated a leader that much older than his immediate predecessor.

    And until 2008, a party had never nominated a a candidate who wasn’t a white man. And yet the Democrats did, and against all odds, they won.

    David Frum is making a stupid argument for why the Democrats shouldn’t nominate Hillary Clinton.

    I mean, as of yet, a party has never nominated a candidate who wasn’t a man. That’s the obvious reason why the Democrats shouldn’t nominate Clinton. History tells us, she’s bound to lose!

  2. Steve says:

    And until 2008, a party had never nominated a a candidate who wasn’t a white man. And yet the Democrats did, and against all odds, they won.

    Against which odds exactly. I do not recall the odds being heavily stacked in McCain’s or the Republicans’ favor going into the 200 election. Indeed, to borrow a phrase from the legal realm, the democrats could have nominated a ham sandwich that year and it likely would have won following the Bush years, or at least would have been competitive with McCain.

  3. Neil Hudelson says:
  4. stonetools says:

    There really should be a place in hell for people who speculate about a presidential nomination this far in advance :-). You might as well say that Rick Santorum is a shoo-in for the Republican nomination, since the Republican runner-up in the previous contest is usually the choice next time. Means nothing.
    As for those issues, seems BOTH parties have debated those issues and have given definite answers.For example,

    * Were President Obama’s counter-terrorism policies effective and necessary? Or did they over-reach and violate important liberties?

    Some Democrats think that Obama’s policies went too far, but most support those policies. Almost no Republicans think Obama’s over-reached and if anything some think he should go further. Frum may think there’s a debate here, but there really isn’t.
    These parties stand for what they stand for, and its up to the voters to decide what they want.

    As for Hillary’s chances, I for one hope to see a new Democratic generation take over in 2016. Much too, will depend on the economy, and who gets blamed for it if the recover falters.

  5. Here’s hoping she doesn’t run then.

    No more Bushes, no more Clintons. No more sons or siblings or spouses. New blood only.

  6. stonetools says:

    @James Pearce (Formerly Known as Herb):

    I agree. The problem is that other than the old hands (Clinton and Biden), there really is no one well placed to succeed Obama. In an alternate universe, it may have been better had CLINTON won in 2008 and appointed Obama her SoS. Then Obama would have been well placed to run in 2016…. but that didn’t happen.
    I would like to see someone like a Mark Warner or Deval Patrick be the nominee in 2016, but neither seem well placed for a run now.

  7. @stonetools:

    In an alternate universe, it may have been better had CLINTON won in 2008 and appointed Obama her SoS.

    I was VERY against Clinton in 08. Not enough to support McCain, but enough to be very very relieved that Obama was able to beat her.

    If Clinton had won, it would have been Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. From 1988 until 2016, Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton. For an entire generation. We would have had adults entering their third decade who had literally known no other president besides a Bush or a Clinton.

    I can’t provide any names for who may be a good alternative for the Dems. But I can tell you that America is big enough, diverse enough to put someone else in the White House besides a dang Bush or a one of the Clintons.

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    The only problems with this analysis, in addition to the obvious point that three years is an eternity in politics, are that we could have said the same thing about Hillary back in 2006 and blacks vote first by race and then by party. In a primary contest between a white Democrat and a black Democrat blacks will break 85-15 or thereabouts for the black candidate. Or more. You can toss polls out the window. Obama-Clinton. Cardin-Mfume. Mosely-Braun-Dixon. Etc.

    So if Deval Patrick or Cory Booker end up in the field it won’t be a walkover for Hillary. Not that she wouldn’t ultimately prevail. There is after all only one Obama. But Hillary would have to sweat bullets during any such primary, especially given that if Cuomo also ran the white vote somewhat would be split.

    That all said, if Hillary is the nominee she’ll have a damn good chance of winning, despite the fact that by then we already will have turned into a de facto banana republic. The Dems have their class, identity and victim’s groups. They have the media. They have academia. They’ve got the unions. The various zombie blocs. They’ve got tons of money. They’re great at politics. They play to win. They’re the A-Team to the GOP’s JV squad.

  9. john personna says:

    I believe Hillary when she says she won’t. But I think the Democrat’s bench is pretty deep. There were lots of people who lost the 2008 primary without going down in flames.

    … geez, was 2008 when Edwards went down in flames? Seems longer ago.

    Make that a few who lost, without going down …

  10. An Interested Party says:

    …blacks vote first by race and then by party.

    Uh huh, that’s why Herman Cain would be a sure thing to capture 90% of the black vote in a general election, right? One would hope that Tsar Nicholas is really some kind of computer program, otherwise, they aren’t giving him the right medications at the asylum…

    The Dems have their class, identity and victim’s groups. They have the media. They have academia. They’ve got the unions. The various zombie blocs.

    Yes, all they need is the WATB victims like you and their domination will be complete…

    Meanwhile, David Frum’s concern trolling is really quite touching…I’m sure Democrats will leap to follow his advice…

  11. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    blacks vote first by race and then by party.

    Finally, now I understand why Condoleeza Rice, Allen West, and Herman Cain are the most popular and preferred politicians among Black people.

    Also, for years Black voters tended to vote for White senatorial and presidential candidates – but I am guessing that that was when Black voters were discerning and knew what was in their best interests?

  12. john personna says:



    We’ve had six months of falling Republican registration, falling identification, and falling approval. We’ve had Republican navel-gazing on how the message can be improved, or what policy changes are needed.

    But forget all that, maybe everyone will just get tired of the Dems? And embrace the party of large capacity magazines and state religion?

  13. john personna says:

    tl;dr – if you want to stop being the crazy party, convince your members to stop bringing the crazy

  14. al-Ameda says:


    she’ll be too old, and it’s tough to go 12yrs with the same party. maybe America will wake up by then?!

    (1) I tend to agree with you that her age may be the determining factor.
    (2) I think America did wake up and it rejected the Republican presidential field in 2012.

  15. An Interested Party says:

    …she’ll be too old…

    Oh? That didn’t stop Reagan in 1980…

    maybe America will wake up by then?!

    Indeed, especially by turning statehouses back to Democratic control so that the House of Representatives will actually represent the political party that receives the majority of the votes…

  16. Gromitt Gunn says:


    our house membership speaks volumes as far as real representation goes.

    Only if you lack any understanding of how gerrymandering works, and have ignored multiple artilcles over the past seven months explaining how much of a popular vote deficit Dems have to overcome to retake the House in the next decade.

  17. superdestroyer says:

    The real question about Hillary Clinton is whether her skills and temperament is what the nation needs in the future. As politics and governance becoems about entitlements and how to pay for them, I suspect that H. Clinton is probably the wrong person to be the chief executive.

    When H. Clinton lived in the White House, the economy was booming and entitlement spending was decreasing. The future is about entitlements and how to pay for them with a more competitive world marketplace, the changing demographics of the U.S., decreasing work force participation, the lack of innovation, and the increasing regulatory burden in the U.S.

    The U.S. needs the next president to have the skills and temperament to be the tax collector for the welfare state. I do not see any candidate to lead the U.S. into the future that it now faces.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    she’s no reagan…

    Oh absolutely…hopefully senility will strike her far later than it struck him…

    …our house membership speaks volumes as far as real representation goes.

    Yes, it speaks volumes about how gerrymandering warps actual votes, as Gromitt Gunn ably explains above…

  19. Brummagem Joe says:

    All fundamentally true. Assuming she’s in good health it’s hers if she wants it.