By Zachary Toillion
Across the country, potential Republican Presidential candidates have made their intentions for the 2016 Presidential election very clear. Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, as well as Gov. Rick Perry and Chris Christie have crossed the country raising their national profile and visiting early primary states.
For the most part, Democrats haven’t laid much groundwork. Most of this is because Hillary Clinton is perceived to be such a frontrunner that few are willing to mount a campaign until Clinton declares her intentions.
Clinton does indeed seem to be a clear frontrunner for the nomination, far more than she was in 2008. Nationally Clinton garners 65 percent of the 2016 Democratic primary vote. In 2008, Clinton had secured about 35 percent support two years out. Clinton led her nearest challenger by a margin of 20 percent in 2008. She currently leads her nearest challenger in 2016 by a margin of 50 percent. Sec. Clinton has already secured more endorsements from Senators, Governors, and Representatives than the entirety of her 2008 campaign. Her biggest threat comes from Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden, both garnering only about 10 percent of the Democratic Primary vote in recent polling.
Clinton’s strength is not just national in nature. In Iowa, Hillary has 64 percent of the vote, besting Joe Biden by a margin of 52 percent. In New Hampshire, Hillary has 64 percent of the vote and bests biden by 42 percent. In South Carolina, Hillary has 50% support, besting Joe Biden by 38 points. In Florida, Hillary bests second place finisher Elizabeth Warren by a staggering 59 percent margin.
Only one elected official has repeatedly expressed interest in challenging Clinton when asked. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would run as the liberal alternative to Hillary Clinton in a Democratic Primary, and in March stated “ I am prepared to run for President of the United States”. Sen. Sanders, who identifies as an Independent Socialist has stated he would consider running for President to bring issues like Social Security and Medicare to the forefront of a potential presidential campaign. Sanders also hasn’t ruled out running as a third party candidate stating, “There is today more and more alienation from the Republican and Democratic parties than we have seen in the modern history of this country. In fact, most people now consider themselves to be “independent,” whatever that may mean. And the number of people who identify as Democrats or Republicans is at a historically low point. In that sense, running outside the two-party system can be a positive politically”.
Democratic primary voters will start seeing more of their potential 2016 candidates. Sec. Clinton and Former President Bill Clinton will be making their first visit to Iowa since 2008 to headline the Harkin Steak Fry on September 14th-an annual Democratic fundraising Event. Sen. Bernie Sanders will be visiting Iowa September 13-14th holding townhalls throughout the state. Sanders has traveled to Iowa before, speaking there in May. Sen. Sanders has made trips to South Carolina and New Hampshire this year as well.
Hillary will have a lot of electoral experience to tout in a fight for the Democratic nomination. In the 2008 primary she garnered 200,000 more votes than Barack Obama, but not enough delegates to win the Democratic nomination. Her career has included four years as Secretary of State and eight years as a New York Senator. She was also an influential advisor to her husband Bill Clinton, who served as Arkansas Attorney General for two years, Arkansas governor for ten years, and President for eight years.
Hillary’s experience will also be one of the largest liabilities for a possible campaign. Having lived life as a nationally known political figure since since 1992, several scandals and electoral setbacks have dogged her public image. As first lady, she failed to pass healthcare reform, and was investigated by special prosecutor Ken Starr for a real estate deal known as “Whitewater”. Conservatives also may raise questions over the death of Vince Foster, and allegations of campaign contributions from foreign sources-two sources of contention between the Clinton administration and Republicans during the 1990s.
In terms of policy, Ms. Clinton is already taking criticism from the liberal wing of the Democratic Party over many of her husband’s largely centrist record of deregulation, welfare reform, military intervention, and free trade agreements. From the right, Hillary will be criticized over her handling of the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012 that led to the death of Libyan ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American citizens. Republicans have also criticized Clinton for a “lack of accomplishments” as Secretary of State.
In general election polling, Clinton currently garners between 374-405 electoral votes against all Republican candidates, topping them by 7 to 14 percent margins in the national popular vote. This electoral strength outperforms both President Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns.