Election 2016 Early Read: It Looks Like Clinton v. Paul
Policy + Politics

Election 2016 Early Read: It Looks Like Clinton v. Paul


Here’s a news flash: Hillary Clinton would crush Vice President Joe Biden and any other Democratic challenger in Iowa’s 2016 first-in-the nation presidential caucuses if they were held today.

Although the next presidential election is more than 1,000 days off, speculation is ramping up already over the likely shape of the 2016 field of candidates. Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination if she chooses to run while Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is only one of a substantial group of attractive Republican presidential aspirants commanding media and party attention.

The new Public Policy Polling survey shows the former First Lady and Secretary of State totally dominates the Democratic field, with 71 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for Clinton compared to just 12 percent for the loquacious vice president and 5 percent for liberal freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

On the Republican side, Rand Paul, a libertarian who is working hard to broaden his political appeal, emerged as the early frontrunner among Iowan Republicans. Eighteen percent of those polled said they favored the Kentucky Republican, compared with 16 percent for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, 15 percent for Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, 14 percent for former Florida governor Jeb Bush and 11 percent for freshman Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Paul is the son of former Republican House member and presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas, who enjoyed substantial support from libertarians and young people in the 2012 campaign. Rand Paul, an ophthalmologist by training, broke onto then national scene back in March when staged a nearly 13-hour filibuster on the Senate floor in opposition to President Obama’s nomination of John O. Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Later that month, Paul parlayed his highly praised filibuster performance into a first-place finish in the Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll – just ahead of Rubio.

“Iowa is friendly territory for Rand Paul and his big advantage is with those who are very conservative and the young, who can be expected to work for him and to show up,” veteran pollster John Zogby told the Fiscal Times Thursday. “He has name recognition -- mainly because of Ron -- and the Paul surname is a brand that is powerful.”

As for Clinton, Zogby said, “If Hillary wants it – and I believe she does – she gets it. She is popular with all factions, and so is Bill. She has run in Iowa and done reasonably well. Any real threat to her there would come from the Left, the isolationist/McGovern wing-- possibly Warren. If she flags before or does not run, Biden is the beneficiary.”

Clinton’s associates reportedly say she is truly undecided about launching another campaign, and that she is settling in – for now, at least – at her family’s charitable foundation to pursue philanthropic missions.

Clinton, the wife of former President Bill Clinton, jetted to Chicago last month to what was billed as her first major speech since leaving the Obama administration. She spoke to an audience of 15,000 human resource professionals, and her remarks were tailored specifically to how immigration reform and President Obama’s health-care overhaul are affecting their industry.

The second tier in the crowded GOP field included Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas with 10 percent, former Pennsylvania  senator Rick Santorum with six percent, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal two percent and one percent for Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico.

Of potential significance, Rubio had led the way when PPP polled Iowans in February, but has dropped five percentage points in the poll since then. The one-time Tea Party darling alienated many conservatives by taking a leading role in drafting the Senate-passed bipartisan immigration reform legislation. Rubio’s loss in the standing worked to the advantage of Christie, Paul and Ryan, who picked up strength in the polling. 

According to the new poll, Paul is leading based on his appeal to the furthest right segment of the GOP. With self-identified “very conservative' voters,” he's at 25 percent with no one else polling above 13 percent. Paul is also particularly strong with men (getting 21 percent to 17 percent for Christie) and younger voters (getting 32 percent to 26 percent for Ryan). Christie has a big advantage with moderates, Bush leads with seniors, and Ryan with women.

Several super PACS have been created by zealous supporters to raise money and generate early interest in a Clinton candidacy, in hopes of pressuring her to eventually get in the race. The most prominent of the super PACs is Ready for Hillary, an outfit that Harold Ickes and other prominent Clinton associates are advising is fast becoming the quasi-official stand-in for Clinton’s campaign.

In early general election polling matchups, Clinton has held relatively modest leads over the most prominent Republican presidential aspirants. She led Jeb Bush and Paul by eight points each in a recent Quinnipiac University polls, and led by three points over Christie and ten points each over Paul and Rubio in an earlier Public Policy Polling survey. 

Zogby described Clinton’s showings as less than impressive. “Hillary should be doing better than leading by 6 or 7 points and scoring only in the 40s in general election,” Zogby said.