Americans will go to the polls to elect a new Congress in November, but public attention is already focused on the next presidential race more than two years away.
A new polling (Washington Post/ABC News) published on Thursday and highly publicized by US media shows that Hillary Clinton is, by and large, the undisputed odds-on favorite in the 2016 election cycle.
At this point, the former first lady, senator and secretary of state even is the biggest undeclared frontrunner for a presidential nomination the Democratic Party has ever produced. The Republican field, though, is crowded with at least seven potential candidates garnering relevant support.
Clinton trounces her potential primary rivals with 73 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents. That is a 61-point lead over Vice President Joe Biden and a 65-point lead over Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren in a hypothetical primary race.
So far, the Democratic Party establishment seems to be firmly behind a Clinton candidacy, from Elizabeth Warren on the left and Senator Joe Manchin (West Virginia) on the right. But Clinton hasn’t yet decided on whether she will be a candidate or not, but almost everyone in the world of US politics expects her to run.
Clinton said earlier that she will announce her decision this year. According to the new poll, 58 percent of registered voters have a favorable view of Clinton, compared to 38 percent who view her unfavorably. That includes a 52-41 favorable-to-unfavorable split among political independents.
In addition, Clinton already disposes of huge assets that make a successful run of any other Democratic would-be candidate an uphill battle: a huge war chest thanks to the contribution of big donors, the network and logistics of the “Clinton machine”, and the grass-roots excitement of a party base that is eager to elect the first female commander-in-chief in American history.
“Ready for Hillary”, an independent political action committee, is already up and running, waiting for Clinton to declare her candidacy. Last weekend, organizers met with rank-and-file
Democrats and labor leaders in the early-voting state Iowa (midwest) to initiate an effort to get her on the ballot.
While the Democrats are prepared for a coronation of Hillary Clinton, it is going to be a merciless battle for the Republican nomination. According to the latest Washington Post/ABC News poll, there is a crowded field of potential contenders.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who seemed to be the frontrunner in many public opinion surveys last year, has suffered from the fallout from “Bridgegate” and other scandals engulfing his administration. Christie now has the support of 13 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents.
That puts him in third place behind Wisconsin congressman and Mitt Romney’s running mate Paul Ryan (20 percent) and former Florida governor Jeb Bush (18 percent). Conservative senators Ted Cruz (Texas), Rand Paul (Kentucky) and Marco Rubio (Florida) register 10-12 percent support. In another opinion survey by Public Policy Polling, former Arkansas governor and evangelical leader Mike Huckabee leads the field with 16 percent support.
Christie has once benefited from the general perception that he has a strong appeal among independents and even some Democrats, a reputation he burnished with his 2013 landslide re-election is his strongly Democratic state.
But this image has been tarnished since a scandal involving a four-day traffic chaos on the George Washington Bridge broke a couple of weeks ago.
The lane closures that caused the traffic jam were orchestrated by top Christie staffers and public officials close to the governor in an alleged plot to punish a local Democratic mayor for not endorsing Christie for re-election. The scandal is now subject of federal and state investigations.
With still two more two years to go until the start of the presidential primaries, Christie not only lost ground against his intra-party rivals. In a theoretical head-to-head match-up, he would also lose against Hillary Clinton. According to the latest poll, Clinton leads Christie among registered voters 53 percent to 41 percent.