|Hillary Clinton laughs with ex-Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta. A recent CNN/ORC poll certainly gives her plenty reason to smile. Photo courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty Images|
Still shaking off the sting of November's thumping, a recent CNN/ORC poll provided Democrats with some glimmers of hope. While most of the headlines generated by the poll were concerned with Obama's sudden surge in job approval, there was another eye-brow raising statistic in the release - Hillary Clinton positively dominates the entire 2016 Republican field, at a time when news of Jeb Bush's unofficial campaign launch has sucked up much of the media oxygen in the room.
So how does the recently much-hyped junior Bush stack up against the recently quiet ex-Secretary of State? Very poorly, actually.
If the election were held today, Hillary would win a clear majority of the vote (54%), while Jeb Bush just barely cross the 40% mark. Supposing the margin between the candidates holds, it would be the worst popular vote performance for Republicans in a Presidential election since Barry Goldwater's landslide 1964 loss.
And if Jeb Bush is not the Republican nominee, and you're a Republican voter, well...go ahead and bend over, per CNN, because 2016 is going to be a rough ride.
The tough-talking New Jerseyan, who most think is a shoe-in to run, trails Hillary by an embarrassing 56-39% margin. Candidates as diverse as Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz, all trail ex-Sen. Clinton by 20 points or more. Hillary even hits 60% in a head-to-head against Sen. Cruz.
If you buy the CNN/ORC numbers, Hillary's performance against all of these candidates is truly intimidating. Not only does she match her ex-two-term President husband's 1990s performance in many demographic metrics, she actually exceeds his showing in many more. Consider the table below, which documents the demographics in which Hillary Clinton performs exceptionally strong in the CNN poll, and compares her performance with past Democratic nominees for President dating back to 1972 (the beginning of the modern exit polling era).
|Exit Poll data courtesy of Best & Krueger's Exit Polls.|
Clinton's performance against Jeb Bush among men, women, Democrats, and Independents, is the best performance for any Democratic presidential nominee since at least as far back as national exit polls track (1972). In other words, Hillary Clinton outperforms EVERY Democrat dating back to McGovern, in key demographics tested by the CNN/ORC poll. For example, she's up four among men, a feat not yet accomplished by any Democrat in exit polling to date. Only Bill Clinton came close to such an accomplishment when he carried the male vote by 3 points in 1992. But even then, that election is not directly comparable due to the unique strength of third-party candidate Ross Perot.
Hillary's 59-37% lead among female respondents in the CNN poll is a good deal more impressive than the previous Democratic record among women - Bill Clinton's 54-38% win in the 1996 election against Bob Dole.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Hillary's +88% lead over Jeb among Democrats is stronger than Obama's lead among Democrats over Romney in 2012, or any other Democrat's lead over a Republican since at least 1972.
Finally, Hillary's 53-40% lead over Jeb Bush among Independent voters, in the unlikely event it holds until election day, would represent Democrats best showing with this group of voters since before 1972.
Believe it or not, these aren't the only places where Hillary Clinton is stronger than her opponents, past Democrats, and the big-dog himself, Bill Clinton.
Her performance among moderates, conservatives, whites, city-dwellers, suburbanites, and even RURAL communities (!!) has to be reassuring for Democrats, to say the least.
But even a partisan observer would have to admit, all the scenarios presented by the CNN poll seem pretty rosy to Clinton-world, both in a historical context, as well as when being compared to recent national surveys of hypothetical 2016 match-ups.
The strongest rebuttal of the CNN/ORC poll comes from a November Quinnipiac Poll, which found Hillary Clinton leading Jeb Bush 46-41%, just on the cusp of the the margin of error. Even more significantly, Clinton was only up 43-42% on Governor Christie. Remember, Clinton led Christie by seventeen points, per CNN. Rand Paul's 20-pt deficit against Hillary Clinton, as seen in the CNN poll, is a 5-pt deficit in the Quinnipiac poll. The same for Mike Huckabee, Paul Ryan, and Rand Paul. Virtually all of the tested GOP contenders look at least somewhat competitive with Hillary Clinton - the exact opposite of what was found by CNN.
Beyond Quinnipiac, a recent Fox News survey also found Jeb trailing Hillary Clinton just barely outside of the 3% margin of error, 49-42%. That also marks his best performance against Hillary to date in a Fox News poll. Both Chris Christie and Rand Paul trail Clinton by double-digits, though no where near to the extent seen in the recent CNN/ORC poll. It is worth noting that the Fox News poll samples registered voters, while the CNN poll samples all adults.
Finally, a recent Bloomberg/Selzer poll of likely voters found Clinton ahead of Bush by only 6 points, with plenty of undecideds. Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Mitt Romney all perform within single digits of Hillary Clinton, while Ted Cruz trails by thirteen points - still, a far cry from his 25-pt deficit seen in the CNN poll.
So while Quinnipiac, Fox News, and Bloomberg paint a slightly better picture for Republicans than the recent CNN/ORC poll, one more recent survey serves to bolster CNN's findings; the latest McClatchy/Marist poll of registered voters. Like CNN, all 2016 GOP candidates trail Hillary Clinton by double digits among registered voters, though none by twenty points or more, as seen by CNN.
There's a propensity by some in the media to attack early presidential horse-race polls, or those that report on such polls, because of their lack of predictive power with regards to the final outcome. But others have noted that while that is often right, it isn't always the case. In 1967, polling accurately predicted a very close race in 1968. In 1982, a majority of polls had Reagan ahead of Mondale, though to a lesser extent than he won by in 1984. Same for 2002 and polling between George W. Bush and John Kerry. Not to mention that both Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are fairly well known quantities - it's not as though there are a substantial number of undecideds waiting to be persuaded by one member of the two largest political dynasties in American history.
In the end, the CNN survey is a bad poll for Republicans. There's no way around that. Fortunately for them, it was released about a year and a half before it probably matters.