A new CNN/ORC national poll of Democrats shows Hillary Clinton’s hold on the nomination weakening further. In a far more troubling sign for Democrats, though, she is now becoming the underdog in a contest against hypothetical Republican challengers. She is still favored for the nomination, but looks mortally wounded for the general.
Hillary Clinton earns the support of just 37 percent of Democrats for the nomination. Her support is down a staggering 21 points since the end of June. Her only rival with any kind of national recognition, socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has 27 percent support. Vice-President Joe Biden, who is not a candidate, has 20 percent support.
It is hard to overstate the weakness in Hillary Clinton’s position. Against, effectively, one other candidate and a potential candidate, 63 percent of Democrats opt for someone other than Hillary. It is worth noting that Hillary’s level of support among Democrats is not much greater than Donald Trump’s 32 percent hold on the Republican electorate. Trump’s support, though, is against a crowded field of well-known, and well-funded, opponents.
On the Democrat campaign trail, Bernie Sanders continues to play to packed-houses around the country, performing his bit on income inequality and the corruption of the political system. He hasn’t criticized Hillary and hasn’t run any TV advertising. Joe Biden has recently stepped up his public appearances and activity, but makes it clear he isn’t yet a candidate.
Hillary Clinton, with almost all of the Democrat party’s institutional support and almost unlimited campaign funds, is running a massive, well-organized campaign backed by lots of TV advertising. She is running as close to unopposed for the nomination as many contested primaries get. Yet, almost two-thirds of Democrats aren’t currently supporting her.
Democrat party strategists, especially those hoping to reclaim the U.S. Senate next year, may soon have to face the fact that there is something wrong with Hillary Clinton as a party standard-bearer.
With just five months until the first votes are cast in Iowa and New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton is still the frontrunner for the Democrat nomination. The votes in the early states are just the opening act of a long nomination process that benefits candidates with the deepest and broadest organization. It is important to remember that, even in 2008, Hillary was able to compete for the nomination deep into the process and didn’t finally face defeat until the very latest primaries.
Moreover, Hillary Clinton still seems to have some hard-core support within the Democrat electorate. Almost a majority of Democrats, 43 percent, say they would be enthusiastic if she were the nominee. This is much higher than for either Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden.
The worry for Democrats, though, is that Hillary Clinton looks very weak going into a general election. Against Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton trails by 5 points, with Carson winning 51 percent of the vote. She also trails Jeb Bush by 2 points and ties Donald Trump in a head-to-head match-up.
Against Carson, Hillary Clinton loses the South, West and Suburban areas by landslides. These areas are all vital to Democrat hopes of reclaiming or winning back seats in Congress. Amazingly, she only edges Carson by 3 points among women. Against Jeb Bush, women are about evenly split between Bush and Hillary.
Even against Donald Trump, Hillary’s edge among women in a general election is only 14 points, far lower than the edge Democrats usually enjoy among female voters. If Hillary is underperforming among women against Republicans, down ballot Democrats will likely have a very bad night next November.
Therein lies the real challenge to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. At some point, the race for a nomination becomes larger than the political fortunes of the individual candidate. Because of back-lash against the leftward policies of the Obama Administration, the national Democrat party is at its weakest level of power in a century. To repair that damage, Democrats need the strongest possible candidate leading the ticket in 2016.
It will not be lost on Democrat strategists that Joe Biden has solid leads against all potential Republican challengers, with the exception of Ben Carson, who is still undefined for most voters. Democrats may soon decide they can’t afford to let Hillary Clinton win the nomination.