2016 Democrats, Poll Watch

Poll Watch: Episode 5 (Run Joe, Run!)

September 8, 2015

A new national poll from Monmouth University provides the proverbial glass half empty or half full question about Hillary Clinton’s prospects.

Half Empty:

After sitting well over 50% in all national polling for months and months, her 42% is the lowest on record and the second straight in the 40s, indicating Monmouth’s result wasn’t a fluke.

Several weeks ago, Hillary slid into the high 40s in New Hampshire.  A couple weeks ago she dropped into the high 40s in Iowa.  It appears national polls are following accordingly.

While Clinton still has a 20 point lead in the Monmouth poll, her 20 point Iowa lead turned into single digits soon after her first sub-50% result.  She’s now trailing by around 10 points in New Hampshire.

Half Full:

Clinton is at 42%

Biden + Sanders = 42%

With semi-constant email scandal coverage for Hillary and extremely favorable articles about noble Old Joe, she still leads him by 20 points.  With America having felt The Bern all summer, she’s ahead of him by 22 points in this poll and normally has at least double Bernie’s support in national polls.

So which is it?

Half empty.  Based on concurrent polls taken with and without Biden, it appears half of his support comes from Hillary voters and half from Sanders voters.  Even if Joe doesn’t opt in, she’s still going to have a fight.

However, if Biden does enter the race, odds are very good he would begin to pick up voters faster from Hillary’s side of the ledger, particularly if he winds up with an AFL-CIO endorsement.

Several pundits have argued against Biden’s candidacy based on his similarity to Hillary as a candidate.  They correctly point out they are of similar age, both were/are members of the Obama administration, each are very experienced and both have similar voting records.

If Biden isn’t an outsider, isn’t younger, also voted for the Iraq War, etc., why would he serve as a better alternative, especially when he can’t become the first female president?

There’s no getting around the gender thing, but women are not flocking to Hillary at this point.  For those under 40, far removed from the struggles to create some amount of workplace equality, not a part of the feminist movement, and if well-educated, somewhat likely to out-earn their husband or boyfriend, this may not be make-or-break issue.

Once you remove or reduce the importance of Hillary’s gender, two very similar candidates remain.  One has very poor national ratings for trust and honesty, the other doesn’t.  One is prone to scheming and covering up, the other is a gaffe machine.  It would appear the second of those two is safer in the current environment.

At least 20% of primary voters will either choose Sanders or stay home.  Biden should not assume he’ll pick up additional support from Bernie’s voters.  The floor in Iowa is probably a bit higher, maybe 25%.  In New Hampshire, still higher, perhaps as much as 35% in a 3-way race.

As a result, Biden should not expect victories in Iowa or New Hampshire and will need to do well in Southern and large Midwestern states.  It seems dangerous to expect to take off after those early contests, but this is exactly what Team Hillary is trying to sell at the moment.  Realizing Bernie could win in Iowa and New Hampshire, they are already talking about a Dixie firewall.

Which candidate could more plausibly pull this off?  The supposed impervious front-runner, with endorsements from more than 50% of congressional Democrats, or the new guy in the race who is still building an organization and entered months after the other candidates?

Not even close.  That’s a way more plausible strategy for Biden.

Arguments against Biden point to his lack of a base.  Even if you figure he gets a good chunk of traditional labor support, there’s still a long way to go.  However, it’s doubtful more than 20-25% of Dems would never abandon Hillary.  After all, many bolted in 2008, and while neither Joe nor Bernie are as captivating as Obama was (some Bernie fans would argue), she wasn’t facing investigation then either.

At least 50, possibly closer to 60% of Dems will consider a Biden nomination.  That’s more than enough to work with.  When I first explored his chances in early August, my guess was he had a 30% chance of winning if he entered.  Would now upgrade to 35-45%.

If Biden has the energy, if he’s up for it, the path is clear.  Hillary may have many endorsements, but those individuals like Joe well enough.  She won’t be able to count on them to bash a popular sitting VP.  If Biden racks up enough delegates, the party will unite around him easily enough.

Like anyone else who’s regularly writing about the election, I want him to enter to make this more interesting.  Bias aside, still think his odds are good.

Run Joe, run!

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