With New Poll, It Looks Like Smooth Sailing Ahead For Hillary Clinton

A new poll provides further evidence that Hillary Clinton's path to the Democratic nomination looks to be clear.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

A new CBS/New York Times poll shows that the race for the Democratic nomination continues to increasingly look as though it is, effectively, over and done with even though there are three months to go before anyone starts voting:

With the Democratic presidential nomination contest all but officially a two-person race, Hillary Rodham Clinton appears vastly better positioned than Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont to persuade party primary voters that she would be more effective at passing her agenda and dealing with international crises, according to a New York Times/CBS News survey released Thursday.

Mrs. Clinton even undercuts Mr. Sanders on his core political message, with 62 percent of Democratic primary voters saying she could bring about real change in Washington, compared with 51 percent for Mr. Sanders.

The promise of change, always a popular lure in politics, is at the heart of a striking paradox in the Democratic race. Democratic primary voters say that the ability to deliver needed change is the most important quality they seek in a candidate, and Mr. Sanders’s popularity is highest with voters who want change. Yet 60 percent of Democrats also want their nominee to continue President Obama’s policies, and these voters support Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Sanders by about a 2-to-1 margin.

This advantage for Mrs. Clinton may reflect all-around skepticism that Mr. Sanders’s leftist candidacy can prevail: Her party’s primary voters expect Mrs. Clinton to be their eventual nominee by more than a 4-to-1 margin over Mr. Sanders.

His chief indictment against Mrs. Clinton, that she is an establishment politician who is captive to big-money special interests and inconsistent on liberal priorities, simply has not persuaded many Democrats to abandon her. While 84 percent of them see Mrs. Clinton as under the sway of special interests, she is still the heavy favorite among Democratic primary voters seeking a candidate who is a strong leader with the right experience to be president.

And while Mr. Sanders is running as an unwavering liberal, three-quarters of Democratic primary voters prefer a nominee who would compromise with Republicans in Congress to get things done.

After a month of sharpened attacks by Mr. Sanders against her, Mrs. Clinton has support from 52 percent of Democratic primary voters, while Mr. Sanders has backing from 33 percent, the poll found. The numbers are virtually unchanged from an early October CBS News poll, in which she led Mr. Sanders, 56 percent to 32 percent.


Mrs. Clinton inspires more confidence among party members on a range of issues than the lesser known Mr. Sanders, who is only now starting to run biographical advertisements on television. On a signature Sanders issue, regulating large banks and financial institutions, Mrs. Clinton inspired confidence in 70 percent of primary voters, compared with 65 percent for Mr. Sanders. On gun laws, 76 percent of Democratic primary voters think she would make the right decisions compared with 57 percent for Mr. Sanders, whose votes against some gun-control measures have been highlighted by Mrs. Clinton.

On foreign conflicts, too, Democrats overwhelmingly expressed more faith in the decision-making of Mrs. Clinton, a former secretary of state, than of Mr. Sanders, a longtime antiwar figure.A

“She knows all the players, all the world leaders,” Jan Lyles, 52, a consultant in Reno, Nev., said in an interview after the poll was completed. She added, approvingly, “She has her husband behind her for advice.” Three-quarters of Democrats view Bill Clinton favorably.

(emphasis added)

While slightly smaller than some of the margins that Clinton has had in other recent polls, the nineteen point margin that Clinton has over Sanders in this poll is a continuation of the trend we’ve seen over the past several weeks. It’s a process that began early in October when it began to appear that Clinton was overcoming the problems that plagued her campaign during the summer. Then, Clinton had what can only be called a very good ten days or so that included a strong debate performance that seems to have been universally well-received, the news that Vice-President Biden would not be entering the race, and an appearance before the House Select Committee investigating the Benghazi attack that clearly went far better for Clinton than it did for the Republicans trying to trip her up politically. By the end of the month, polling at all levels had turned around significantly and the Democratic field began winnowing as Lincoln Chafee, Jim Webb, and extreme long shot Lawrence Lessig all dropped out of the race. Since then, in addition to this new poll, Clinton has seen her numbers turn around to the point where she now has seemingly prohibitive leads nationally, as well as in Iowa, South Carolina, and Florida while Clinton has effectively closed the gap between her and Sanders in New Hampshire and appears poised to overtake him in the polls there in the near future.

This new poll only seems to confirm what became apparent about the Democratic race by the end of last month. While many Democrats will no doubt continue their flirtation with Bernie Sanders, and Sanders will probably stay in the race in some form until the bitter end as a means of being able to discuss the issues that drew him into the fray to begin with, the race for the Democratic nomination is effectively over. Not only can we see Clinton turning the top line poll numbers around, but we have a poll like this that shows that Democratic voters clearly believe that she would be best equipped to accomplish the goals they care about than Sanders would, and that she is far more likely to be both the nominee and the eventual winner of the General Election than the septugenarian self-identified socialist Senator from Vermont. In the end, of course, this really shouldn’t be surprising. To the extent that Clinton was “in trouble” over the summer, it was due mostly to her own campaigns somewhat ham-handed responses to the controversies swelling around her combined with the same kind of enthusiasm for Saners that we have seen many times before for what essentially end up being novelty candidates for President. Now that Clinton’s campaign has largely gotten that behind them, Democrats are moving in the direct that we expected them too all along.

None of this will stop Clinton’s opponents in the Democratic race from trying to score points against her of course. The second Democratic debate is likely to see Martin O’Malley return to his strategy of trying to differentiate himself from Clinton as a more consistent champion of the party’s ideas, for example, and the fact that Bernie Sanders has become slightly more aggressive against Clinton in recent weeks indicates that we may see him being more combative as well. Clinton herself is, as she showed last month, a very good debater, and the fact that this next debate, as well as the one after it in December, is scheduled for a Saturday evening likely means that Clinton’s opponents won’t get the kind of exposure they might hope for going forward. Yes, Clinton could still implode, or their could be more serious revelations regarding her private email server yet to come, but that seems unlikely and things seems set to move forward smoothly forward for Clinton’s campaign to the point where consideration is already being given, no doubt, to what the early stages of what will effectively be a General Election campaign that focuses fire on Republicans might look like. The advantage for Clinton in that, of course, is that she’s likely to be focusing on next November while Republicans are still fighting for their party’s nomination.

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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. Jordo says:

    Except all this is meaningless until Elizabeth Warren makes her endorsement. She has the power to tilt the scales in either direction. She led the fight in framing the issues of the Democratic campaign platform. She will make the final call.

  2. Neil Hudelson says:


    She has the power to tilt the scales in either direction.


  3. Andre Kenji says:

    If Hillary begins to lose ground to Bernie she just has to air his participation on Lou Dobbs talking about immigration reform. That was always about her, not about him.

  4. Stonetools says:

    Dan Drezner thinks Hillary has gotten to the stage where there is no alternative. Hillary is not perfect and is even hypocritical on issues Ike TPP, but when you compare to the competition…

  5. gVOR08 says:

    @Stonetools: Atrios had a good bit a couple days ago on how the supposedly liberal MSM still treat Republicans as the Daddy Party despite all the evidence to the contrary. Somehow the Rs are allowed to run a blowhard billionaire, two religious fruitcakes, a feckless twit, a failed CEO, and an incompetent scion of privilege. But Hillary is judged against perfect.

    Speaking of religious fruitcakes, can we please not give nuclear launch codes to someone who WANTS the world to end soon?

  6. Tyrell says:

    The people are distrusting of Hillary and are not excited about her. Hillary will have to move to the center, or she will find herself sitting in the left field foul section, a cold, lonely place in November.
    An independent of the right sort could do very well in what looks like a “none of the above” election. Warren ? Virtually unknown outside of her state. She mainly talks about one issue: Wall Street.
    We need to be wary of candidates who have ties to international financial organizations.

  7. An Interested Party says:

    Hillary will have to move to the center…

    And how, exactly, is she not already there…

  8. indienyc says:

    @Jordo: @Jordo: Regarding Warren, people seem to be forgetting that Warren urged Hillary Clinton to run in 2014:

    “All all of the women — Democratic women I should say — of the Senate urged Hillary Clinton to run, and I hope she does. Hillary is terrific,” Warren said during an interview broadcast Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” noting that she was one of several senators to sign a letter urging Clinton to run in 2016.”

    I really don’t see Warren coming out against Clinton during the primary. She will wait until after and endorse the nominee.

  9. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @Tyrell: She already represents the hawkish corporatist center-right wing of a coalition party whose elected officials range from center-left to center-right. There is no sane way for her to go further right.

  10. DrDaveT says:

    Is it time to get the Cold Case team to work on where Martin O’Malley might be these days?

    Seriously, if this is a campaign, he must be totally freaking awesome at hide-and-seek.