Clinton Seizes Control of the Democratic Campaign
Policy + Politics

Clinton Seizes Control of the Democratic Campaign

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Three new surveys released on Tuesday confirm that Hillary Clinton crushed it during last week’s Democratic presidential debate. The new data also suggests that she finally may be getting the controversy over her emails under control.

The new polls -- from the Wall Street Journal-NBC News, the Washington Post-ABC News and the Morning Consult -- show Clinton surging ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, her chief rival for the nomination, and indicate that Vice President Joseph Biden may have waited too long to decide whether to make a late entry into the Democratic presidential contest. Biden lags well behind Clinton and Sanders, with more than a third of Democratic voters in one poll saying that they don’t want Biden to get into the race.

Related: Hillary Clinton Aces Democratic Debate, Sending Red Flag to Biden

After months of steady decline in the polls amid widespread distrust and suspicion among Democrats, Clinton turned things around in last Tuesday’s debate in Las Vegas and now leads Sanders in national polling by 20 points or more. In the Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll, she tops Sanders 49 percent to 29 percent, with Biden garnering 15 percent. With Biden out of the picture, her numbers improve over the Vermont senator, 58 percent to 33 percent.

The Washington Post-ABC poll offers similar results: Clinton leads with 54 percent, with 22 percent for Sanders and 16 percent for Biden. That represents a 12 percentage point improvement for Clinton compared to her showing a month ago. It also brings her roughly halfway back to her level of support in the spring and summer, when Clinton was viewed as the runaway favorite to win the nomination.

A new Morning Consult tracking poll shows 56 percent of Dems and those leaning Democratic favoring Clinton, versus 24 percent for Sanders. For the first time since July, the poll analysis notes, more voters see Clinton favorably than unfavorably. That is a remarkable turnabout, indicating that she is reasserting control over the course of the campaign.

For sure, Clinton faces another tough challenge on Thursday, when she will spend a day testifying before the House committee investigating the 2012 attack in Benghazi, Libya. It was the Republican-controlled committee that first discovered that Clinton used a personal email server for much of her official communications while at State. That sparked a controversy over her lack of forthrightness in admitting that she made a mistake and might have risked security breaches with her e-mail correspondence.

Related: House Republicans Give Clinton Another Gift on Behghazi

But she has skillfully pushed back against the special committee investigation as a politically motivated show trial, especially after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) publicly credited the investigation for bringing down Clinton’s poll numbers.   

At the same time, Clinton has been helped by Biden’s indecisiveness over whether to enter the Democratic race. Democratic activists have grumbled that Biden is muddling the race by sending a seemingly endless stream of mixed messages on whether he intends to attempt a late entry, and many Democratic voters appear to agree.