The Race For the Democratic Nomination Is Basically Over

Barring some event that would essentially be historically unprecedented, Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for President in 2016.

Hillary Clinton Blackberry

Hillary Clinton is continuing to solidify her lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, indicating rather strongly that the race for the Democratic race is entering a phase of inevitability that many observers have expected from the start:

Hillary Clinton surged to a 25-point lead over Bernie Sanders in the latest Bloomberg Politics national poll out Friday, as the former secretary of state continues to solidify her advantage among the Democratic base.

Clinton grabbed 55 percent, while Sanders took 30 percent. Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley polled within the 5-point margin of error with 3 percent, while 8 percent said they were not sure and 4 percent said they were uncommitted.

Roughly six in 10 of the Democrats surveyed, however — 62 percent — said that they could still be persuaded on their choice for the nomination, while 37 percent said their mind is made up. Among Clinton supporters, 46 percent said they are set on their decision, while 54 percent said they could be persuaded. But among Sanders supporters, just 36 percent said they are decided and 64 percent could be persuaded in another direction.

Asked to answer a series of 15 questions about the candidate’s qualities, those surveyed gave Clinton an advantage in 11, including on foreign policy, gun control and life experience. Voters preferred Sanders on issues related to reining in Wall Street, honesty and trustworthiness.

In the previous iteration of the survey conducted in September, Clinton picked up 33 percent to Sanders’ 24 percent, while Vice President Joe Biden, who has since ruled out a presidential run, earned 25 percent.

One thing this poll seems to show, of course, is that the vast majority of the people who had been saying in previous polling that they supported Vice-President Biden notwithstanding the fact that he was not officially in the race, were more naturally inclined toward Clinton than Sanders. With Biden having taken himself out of the race, these voters seem to be accepting the inevitable and lining up behind Clinton. As I was saying at several points during the Biden speculation in August and September, it was always likely that people inclined to support Biden would be more likely to lean toward Clinton than Sanders as a second choice given the fact that Biden was more like Clinton than the Vermont Senator. This poll seems to confirm that, and to indicate that race is essentially over unless something happens to really shake the Clinton campaign to its foundations.

This can be seen in the national poll averages, where Clinton’s advantages have become apparent. Over at RealClearPolitics, Clinton holds an average 23.6 point lead over Sanders, with the trend showing her heading up while Sanders loses some ground but otherwise stays relatively stable wiith an average of, at most, roughly one-third of those polled. Clinton’s lead over Sanders in Iowa is an average of 24 points, which is where she was before the summer and where she returned after Biden announced he would not be entering the race. Clinton’s lead in New Hampshire is smaller at an average 7.7 points, but again this reflects a significant surge on her part since October and, perhaps, the beginning of the end of Sanders regional advantage in New England. In South Carolina, there isn’t even a contest since Clinton has an average lead of more than fifty-two points, which isn’t entirely surprising since Sanders is not the kind of candidate that would seem to play well in the Palmetto State, not the least because he has made absolutely no headway against Clinton among African-American voters. The situation is much the same in Florida, where Clinton has an average lead of more than forty-one points. The situation looks much the same at Pollster, both nationally and in each of the individual early primary states. Unfortunately for former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, there is no indication at all that voters are even paying any attention to him at this point.

If nothing else, all of this would seem to indicate that Clinton’s path the the Democratic nomination is basically clear, something that actually became clear after an October in which she had a successful first debate, the news that Vice-President Biden was not running, and an appearance before the House Benghazi Committee in which she pretty much decimated the Republican effort to cause her political harm. Unlike 2008, there doesn’t really seem to be any obstacle in Clinton’s path to victory at this point and one gets the impression that, eventually, both Senator Sanders and former Governor O’Malley will realize that continued attacks on her will only do the Democratic Party more harm than good. Barring something that would at this point be historically unprecedented, I would expect the race for the Democratic nomination to be basically over by mid-March at the latest. The Republicans, meanwhile, are likely to continue their fight well into April.

In all likelihood, absent a major change in the direction of the race, this will likely be the last real look at the 2016 Democratic horse race that I’ll post. There’s not really any point in spending much more time looking at a race that is, for all intents and purposes, over.

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. Bill Lefrak says:

    This was over long before it started. Only the truly airheaded actually believed this was a real contest. It’s a Kabuki theatre in a Potemkin village. Catnip for the useful idiot brigades.

    In any event, she’s got a real good shot at the prize. With even a mere 40% of the overall white vote, it’d be overwhelmingly probable that she’ll take the Electoral College.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    It’s a Kabuki theatre in a Potemkin village. Catnip for the useful idiot brigades.

    Tsar Nicky, it is you!

    Welcome! Since you’ve been gone, the RWNJ commentors idiocy levels have directly tracked the Republican nomination contest level of idiocy, which is to say it’s grown exponentially. We used to be able to count on you for the most asinine comments, but I think the competition has become fierce since you took your leave of absence. Good luck!

  3. michael reynolds says:

    Hillary needs to be given room to reclaim her inner hawk. She needs to start tacking right-ward.

    Cue the inevitable chorus of, “Are you saying we can only win by betraying our deepest beliefs?”

    Well, yes, that’s what I’m saying to morons who don’t get the difference between power and self-satisfaction.

    To people who actually, you know, want to do something, who want to accomplish something in the real world, who want to stop the GOP and actually win, I’m saying that once the nom is secured you tack to the center because that’s where the votes are.

    Tacking is of course complicated by the fact that Mr. Obama has weighed Ms. Clinton down with the shackles of the refugee issue. So she really, really needs to get back to the center. And Democrats need to shut up and let her.

    The woman is trying to win this thing, so how about we let her? Or, we could always demand Bernie run a third party effort we can feel proud voting for as we elect Ted Cruz.

    1968. Democrats making the perfect the enemy of the good. That worked out so well, let’s do it again.

  4. CSK says:

    I really don’t think she has to worry much–at least, not the way things are now. Trump has doubled down on the crazy, and his poll numbers keeping rising. The “base” loathes Rubio, Bush, and Kasich. Carson’s ignorance is becoming too manifest even for his supporters to rationalize. In terms of personality, Cruz makes Richard Nixon look like Mr. Rogers. And a lot of the “base” doesn’t like Cruz because of TPP.

  5. michael reynolds says:


    I worry because this is fundamentally a fight over half of ten percent of the vote. 45 to 45 is the underlying architecture of the electorate. If either side gains 5.1%, they win.

    This is a 5% election, and Hillary has neither her husband’s political skills, nor ex-boss’ political skills. And both Cruz and Rubio are pretty good operators. Neither strikes me as another McCain.

    Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, maybe Iowa and New Hampshire. Those are the states we need to win. Anyone see a hotbed of liberalism on that list? No? Then we need center votes in those places. We need working single women – not, again, a bunch of leftie ideologues there. And we need at least a decent number of what used to be union voters, white blue collar folks – they are to us what the Hispanic vote is to Republicans.

    So we need the far left to shut up and get in line because you really don’t win elections by carrying Austin, San Francisco and Manhattan. (Notice how those places are not in swing states?) We need to give Hillary room. We can absolutely still lose this.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    She needs to start tacking right-ward.

    Hillary’s about as right as she needs to be without becoming a full on right wing nut job. She believes in American exceptionalism, military force, and clandestine evil.

    She fulfills the wishes of all but the most bloodthirsty of hawks and somehow, as the post shows, gets a lot of support from the lefties you’ve been disparaging all week. If she were anymore right we’d have to call her George Hillary Bush.

    And Republican “independents” still wouldn’t vote for her.

  7. Scott says:

    @CSK: I don’t think you can count on getting the vote out this Presidential election. No matter how awful you think the Republicans are going to be; they will still get out the votes. And they will win. I’m not at all confident. I think you all should be terrified right now.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    From a new poll in Missouri:

    A new poll of 1,451 Missouri voters found that a strong majority opposes allowing Syrian refugees into the U.S. Only 22 percent said they were in favor of allowing them; 67 percent said they were opposed, with 12 percent unsure.

    No problem there. Nope. 7 out of 10. Nothing to be concerned with.

    I find I am playing the role of William Tecumseh Sherman. Sherman was dismissed as “crazy” for saying the Civil War would take years, not months. Because all the smart guys said it’d be over by Christmas. (The traditional predicted ending date for all wars.)

    This war is on, it will not be easy. It was going to be easy, but now it’s going to be harder. A few more mistakes and it’ll be a toss-up if it isn’t already. We’d better hope the Republicans go over-the-top. Oh, wait, they already have and yet, they’re winning this fight.

  9. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds: @Scott:

    I take both your points, but the division in the Republican Party has become a chasm the width, depth, and length of the Grand Canyon. As I said in a different context yesterday, the base is insensate with rage, and the sheer hatred they manifest toward anyone who isn’t Trump is astonishing. They are calling, literally, for blood in the streets.

    Trump, Cruz, and Carson all have shots–in varying degrees–at the nomination. If any of them gets it, is there any chance he could get 270 electoral votes?

  10. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds: I have a feeling the Syrian refugee thing is going to take on a BENGHAZI flair pretty soon. It already is.

    My nephew’s girlfriend, 17, was asking me earlier what Syrian refugees have to do with the Paris attacks because she’s seeing all this stuff on Facebook. I provided an overly complicated answer that outlined the whole context, but I probably just should have said, “Nothing.”

  11. Scott says:

    @James Pearce:

    the base is insensate with rage, and the sheer hatred they manifest toward anyone who isn’t Trump is astonishing

    That rage and hate is easily transferrable. sure it is directed inward now. Just wait until it is focused on Hilary. Won’t be pretty. Trouble is that you are thinking rationally and we are not in that state lately. And probably won’t be next November. Demos need to get mad to win.

  12. CSK says:


    That is actually me, and not James Pearce, to whom you’re replying. no matter.

    Sure the base hates Hillary. But you have to understand that they hate Rubio, Bush, and Kasich more. Much more. I really don’t know if they’d coalesce behind a candidate who wasn’t Trump–at this point.

  13. Stan says:

    @michael reynolds: Hillary is gently disengaging from Obama. See the column in today’s NYTimes by David Brooks. She’s carrying out a balancing act, and she’s not bad at it.

  14. al-Ameda says:

    Hillary Clinton is continuing to solidify her lead over Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, indicating rather strongly that the race for the Democratic race is entering a phase of inevitability that many observers have expected from the start

    I feel very comfortable and confident in suggesting that she’ll come through this period of general acceptance and strong polling in the party, and emerge as hated and investigated as ever. Republicans never tire of investigating and hyperventilating when it comes to Hillary Clinton.

  15. Guarneri says:

    @michael reynolds:

    You seem to have pissed some people off here, Michael. I’d consider it a badge of honor, actually.

  16. Guarneri says:

    After claiming. Muslims have nothing to do with terrorism, Ms Clinton was heard away from the microphone whistling a tune, “Hello cowgirl in the tub, is this place your jihadi command….”

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Another poll.

    Question: Do you think the governor of your state should welcome or reject Syrian refugees who have passed a federal government security screening?

    Overall: 54 to 28, against.
    Democrats: 47 to 32, for.
    Independents: 56 to 24 against.
    Republicans: 76 to 15, against.

    The country as a whole, Republicans and Independents all opposed. 2 to 1 overall, 2 to 1 independents, and the fascinating number is Democrats who have just a 15 point gap between pro and con despite a week of frantic Democratic efforts to re-define the issue. Look how the Dems total up to just 79% willing to express an opinion, vs. 91% of Republicans. The “real” Democratic number when you set aside the intense pressure from the WH, is probably close to 50/50.

  18. Scott says:

    @michael reynolds: I wonder if the same number would be against any refugees, regardless of national origin. I think people do not want to accept anybody.

  19. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds: If your point was that the public supports passage of the SAFE act, then you’d have one.

    But if I’ve been understanding you properly, your point is that liberals are dumb and the Syrian refugee issue will decide next year’s election. Where’s the poll that supports that?

  20. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: 1968: If we had another week, we would have won that election.
    1972: radical leftists take over the Democratic leadership, and McGovern loses in a rout.
    Hillary needs to get back to the middle: working class people.

  21. Jordo says:

    Except it’s absolutely not over until Elizabeth Warren makes her endorsement. She has the power to tip the scales either way. Therefore, to say it “is basically over” is basically bullshit.

  22. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    Dude, I’ve explained this like 90 times now. One more:

    1) Narratives (stories) surround every candidate. These both come from, and form, people’s perspectives.

    2) The narrative was: HRC is tough as nails.

    3) Now the narrative is becoming “HRC is soft on terrorists.”

    Were we able to change the “John Kerry wimp” narrative, despite his war record? No, we were not.

    Were we able to change the “Dukakis is a bloodless stiff” narrative? No, we were not.

    Have we been able to change the “Clintons are sleazy” narrative? No we have not.

    The way to kill a narrative is not to let it get started.

    This new narrative may carry only a little weight in the election. Other issues may bury it. Unless there’s an attack in the US or a close ally. In which case the narrative is deadly.

    I don’t know how to make it any simpler. If people think Hillary is “soft” it will hurt her. Simple as that. And right now she (with Mr. Obama’s unfortunate help) is feeding that narrative.

  23. Tyrell says:

    @michael reynolds: In the last few days there has been increases in possible terrorist activity in this country, including a suspicious incident in Los Angeles in which some man was dressed as a pilot and got on a plane. Security levels are high, and this weekend’s sports events will see unprecedented screenings and precautions. All it takes is one to get through.
    Hillary has not been very aggressive in this area, which has surprised many, including me. I am not sure if it is appearing “soft” , or just appearing detached and not engaged.

  24. Tyrell says:

    @Jordo: I don’t know why Hillary needs Warren’s support unless she is trying to pick up the Native American vote.

  25. michael reynolds says:

    One other thing, just to get it off my chest: if you want to get under people’s skin you have to aim more accurately. People on the left are ranting that everyone who disagrees with them on this is terrified. Bed-wetters. On and on.

    That is not the emotion here. They are not afraid, they’ve already done the fear, now they are pissed off. They are mad. There is a whole lot of anger in this country right now, on the right, but also on the left. There is nothing but heat.

    That’s what Trump is all about: anger. Trump and Cruz are the candidates of rage, and there’s a damned good chance of one of them getting the nomination. If sh-t and fan come together at some point in the next 11 months, Americans will not wet themselves. But they will sure as hell want to kill someone. If that happens Hillary had better look like she’s ready to kill.

  26. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That is not the emotion here. They are not afraid, they’ve already done the fear, now they are pissed off.

    Another false dichotomy. At the moment they are both.
    Regarding Hillary tacking to the center, as every single candidate in my and your lifetimes has done for the general, what other issues do you think she needs to tack right on?
    Should she tack right on abortion? Women’s rights? Minority rights? Wall street regulation? Syrian and Iraq intervention? or does your list consist solely of Muslim refugees fleeing an extremist group that we are largely responsible for creating?

  27. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds: The right wing is angry and they claim Democratic leaders are soft on terrorism.

    News at 11.

  28. cd6 says:

    @michael reynolds: Dude, I’ve explained this like 90 times now. One more:

    1) Narratives (stories) surround every candidate. These both come from, and form, people’s perspectives.

    2) The narrative was: HRC is tough as nails.

    3) Now the narrative is becoming “HRC is soft on terrorists.”

    Man… I gotta say… what are you talking about? How many people in all of America really spent the last week going “I’m not a die hard democrat, but I respect that Hillary cause she’s tough as nails. She’s got my vote” to “wait, Hillary’s not on board with a muslim database? She’s soft of terrorists. I’m voting Cruz or Trump or Carson now”

    I used to agree with lots of stuff you posted, but you might want to take a second and consider if you’re wildly overreacting. The country’s freaking out about France now, but the elections a long time away. Hillary doesn’t need to go full Wolfowitz quite yet.

  29. Tyrell says:

    @cd6: Well, I and many others were certainly disappointed, perplexed, and surprised in Hillary’s lack of clarity, conviction, commitment, passion, and energy in her statements about the terrorist attacks. She had a big opportunity to contrast herself to the president’s stumbling, fumbling, and grumbling approach; which in an embarrassing conference in Turkey he seemed insulted that anyone would dare broach the subject of DAESH and what he planned to do about it. We certainly expected more from a person who was secretary of state and plans to be president .
    Sanders ? Blame it on the weather. O’Malley – does not have a clue, would be better off addressing the Ravens’ problems.

  30. michael reynolds says:


    Dude, you’re no longer having a conversation, you’re on a heretic hunt. Abortion? Minority rights? Come on, stop wasting my time.


    How many people in all of America really spent the last week going “I’m not a die hard democrat, but I respect that Gore is strong on the environment. He’s got my vote” to “wait, Gore sighs a lot, wears earth tones and seems kind of snobbish? I’m voting George W. Bush now”

    The answer is: enough. That’s how many. The same number that decided Dukakis didn’t mind if his wife was raped. The same number that decided Mitt Romney hated dogs. The same number that decided Gary Hart lacked “beef.”

    You know what? I am tired of arguing this. I told you people a week ago this was a political loser for Democrats, and now the polls have proved me right. More right than I expected, actually. So, I’ll tell you what, let’s just wait for the polls that will show a drop in Democratic support, a rise in the number of hawks, and a drop in the number of people who identify the Democrats as strong on terror and strong on defense. You’ll also likely see a drop in support for immigration from all sources.

    Politics is not just about policy positions, it is about emotion. Voters look for a leader who will channel their emotions. People are mad, they are feeling neglected, and the story we are telling right now on every new HuffPo page, is that our main concern is refugees. Foreigners.

    Now, you may not see how dangerous that is, but I guaranfuckingtee you Hillary’s political advisors do. They don’t leak much, but you’ll see a story within a week.

  31. Grewgills says:

    @michael reynolds:
    You said she had to pivot right for the general and she needed to do it now. So far, you have articulated exactly on issue that she needs to move right on.
    Others have pointed out that on quite a few issues she is already occupying the center or center right.
    She is already to the right of center on pretty much every security issue other than accepting Syrian refugees. Something that even Cato says we should do, so other than a snapshot of polls right after an attack, I don’t know how hard left that is.
    She is already for a heavier hand in the ME, including the, IMO, foolish idea of a no fly zone in Syria.
    On the NSA and domestic surveillance she is center right.
    On Wall Street regulation she is already center right.
    The only issues outside of refugees that she is left of center on are immigration. minority rights, and women’s rights (including abortion), universal healthcare, and education funding.
    Are there other issues other than the ones I’ve listed where you think she isn’t already occupying the center or center right? Which of those do you think she needs to move further right on?

    I think the reception you have received for your position of Syrian refugees has gotten you a bit hypersensitive. I’m not trying to administer a purity test. I’m trying to figure out what you mean by her needing to pivot right and if it extends beyond the only issue I’ve ever seen you say she is too far left on.

  32. Tyrell says:

    Look at this: United Health Care has announced that it may very well leave the Affordable Health Care plan. The results could be serious, with a lot of people looking for another carrier, big rate increases, (on top of what is going to happen in January), and other companies bailing out. Whoever is elected in 2016 will have to make some major fixes, not just tuning, tweaking, adjusting, and aligning. The whole engine needs replacing.
    A lot of people are going to get left out in the cold, and hung out to dry – facing the wrath of the IRS.