Monday, March 11, 2013

Key Takeaway for Republicans from Quinnipiac 2016 poll: Pray Hillary doesn't run

Demographic realities provide Hillary (and Democrats generally) with advantages in 2016. Photos courtesy of, & Reuters/AP.
A new nation-wide survey from Quinnipiac University shows Hillary Clinton very well-positioned for 2016 against 3 likely GOP contenders for President: Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, and Marco Rubio:
4. If the election for President were being held today, and the candidates were Hillary Clinton the Democrat and Christopher Christie the Republican, for whom would you vote?

Hillary Clinton  -  45%   (46)
Chris Christie  -  37%   (42)
Don't know/other -  19%  (12)

5. If the election for President were being held today, and the candidates were Hillary Clinton the Democrat and Marco Rubio the Republican, for whom would you vote?

Hillary Clinton  -  50%   (49)
Marco Rubio  -  34%   (41)
Don't know/other  -  16%   (10)

6. If the election for President were being held today, and the candidates were Hillary Clinton the Democrat and Paul Ryan the Republican, for whom would you vote?

Hillary Clinton  -  50%   (50)
Paul Ryan  -  38%   (44)
Don't know/other  -  12%   (6)
*numbers in parentheses indicates the results of a February 3rd, 2013 Public Policy Polling survey

Despite being 4 years out from the election, those are some rough numbers for the GOP, especially considering that Chris Christie and Paul Ryan are fairly well-known nationally, courtesy of Hurricane Sandy and a vice presidential nomination. Of the 3 Republicans tested, it's Paul Ryan who actually scores the highest level of national support (at 38%). The only problem with that is the fact that he elicits stronger support for Hillary Clinton, who comes in at 50%. So Ryan would essentially need to win all 12% of the voters who are undecided at this stage just to match Hillary. While Chris Christie attracts slightly less nationwide support than Paul Ryan (37%), he is able to hold Hillary well under 50%. Perhaps even more interesting, nearly 1 in 5 voters say they would be undecided on a Clinton v. Christie 2016 race. Marco Rubio, unsurprisingly, performs the worst against Clinton, only garnering 34% to her 50%. He is not as well known as Christie or Ryan, and his limited foray into the national spotlight will largely be remembered for this (as trite as it may be)
Unfortunately, it only looks worse for the GOP trio after peering at the Quinnipiac crosstabs. With all the talk of the GOP's demographic troubles, I decided to check out the ethnicity breakdown of the poll sample. 73% of respondents identified as white, 11% as black, 9% as Hispanic, and 7% as Asian/other. Compared to the 2012 election, Quinnipiac is finding registered voters to be more white and less minority. The only problem with that is the fact that white voters have declined as a percentage of the electorate in every election since 1992:

Not only that, but Latino's (a group Obama won in 2012 by a 71-27% margin) have gained in numbers every year since 1992. The African American portion of the electorate was largely static from 1980-2008, when it jumped based on enthusiasm for the first black presidential nominee. The purpose behind all this information is to illustrate that despite Quinnipiac poll findings, the electorate is very unlikely to see an increase in the white vote from 2012, and equally unlikely to see a decrease in the Hispanic vote. In fact, some have even suggested white turnout could drop to under 70% in 2016. Just for fun, what would the Quinnipiac results have looked like with white voters making up less than 70% of the electorate? The below chart illustrates what happens using a racial make-up of 69% white, 12% black, 12% Latino, 7% Asian/other.**

Under Quinnipiac's racial/ethnic I.D. findings, Hillary's lead over Christie, Ryan, and Rubio ranged from as low as 8 points, to as high as 16 points. But if the poll is reweighted to a possible, if not likely turnout scenario of 69% White, 12% African American, 12% Hispanic, and 7% Asian/other, Hillary's lead over the Republican trio ranges from a low of 10 points (against Christie) and high of 18 points (against Rubio). Not a huge shift from the original result, but the Republicans need all they can in 2016 in the event Hillary Clinton runs for the Democratic nomination. And if Republicans can do no better among non-white voters than Romney did in 2012, demographics are definitely not on their side.

For what it's worth, I noted the partisan identification of the Quinnipiac poll was D+9, 34% Democrat, 25% Republican, 34% Independent. That's 3 points more Democratic than the electorate in 2012 (D+6), 2 points more Democratic than the 2008 electorate (D+7), and 9 points more Democratic than the 2004 electorate (D+0). But reweighting the Quinnipiac poll's partisan identification to the most Republican friendly turnout numbers (2004) does nothing to change the fact that Hillary leads the entire pack:

Even in the event that things are so poor for Democrats that the electorate resembles 2004 turnout, Christie can only get to 40% in the Quinnipiac survey, while Hillary leads with 45%. Her lead grows to nine points against Marco Rubio (and again, that's even in the event Quinnipiac had found party identification identical to the 2004 election!). Just what exactly would it take, in terms of party I.D., for the Quinnipiac poll to show any Republican with a lead? A never-before-seen R+8 electorate would give Christie just a 1 point lead in the poll.

Really, folks, good news for the GOP is hard to find in this poll. If anything, Republicans can take some solace in the fact that if the Democratic nominee is NOT Hillary Clinton, the race is essentially tied. Quinnipiac found that Chris Christie (R) actually leads Vice President Joe Biden in a hypothetical 2016 match-up, 43-40% (winning Independent voters by 12 points). The Vice President leads Paul Ryan (R) by just 3 points, 45-42% (though Ryan leads w/ Independent voters by 9 points). Biden finds his largest lead against Rubio, 45-38% (Rubio still manages to win Independents by 3 points).

The GOP's best hope at winning back the White House, at least at this very early stage of the 2016 race, is if Chris Christie is their nominee, and NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo is the Democrats. In that scenario, Christie would lead by a large 45-28% margin. Paul Ryan would lead by 5 points, while Rubio and Cuomo would be tied at 37%.  But at this early stage of the game, it's looking more and more like Hillary Clinton is inching towards a second presidential run in 2016. Whether she does or not is VITAL to Republican chances at preventing Democrats from holding onto the White House for a third term, something last done by Ronald Reagan and George Bush in 1981-1993, and not by a Democrat since FDR. Is Hillary beatable? Yes, depending on who the GOP nominates. But at this point, all Republicans can really do is pray she stays out.

** I lowered the Afr. Am. share of the vote from 13% in 2012 to 12% for the hypothetical. My assumption there is that with Hillary as the nominee in 2016 (or any other non-black candidate), the heightened Afr. Am. turnout from 2008 and 2012 may revert to pre-'08 levels. I increased the Hispanic share of the vote from 10% to 12% because they are, after all, the fasting growing electoral group in the U.S. I simply stuck with Quinnipiac's finding of 7% Asian/other voters.

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