First Thoughts: A reality check on 2016
By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Domenico Montanaro, and Jessica Taylor
*** A reality check on 2016: Yes, it's early. And yes, 2008 taught us that the early front-runners (Clinton and Giuliani) don't always end up as the presidential nominees. But our new NBC News poll looking ahead to the 2016 presidential election reconfirms three current political realities. One, the Republican Party is divided. According to the poll, 32% of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents say they would vote for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a GOP presidential primary, while 31% prefer another Republican candidate (never mind the other third who are undecided, so together 68% of GOPers are not on board with Christie). Two, the Democratic Party is pretty unified. By comparison in the poll, 66% of Democratic or Democratic-leaning respondents say they'd back Hillary Clinton in a presidential primary, versus just 14% who say they'd vote for another Democratic candidate (and 34% total who claim not to be for Hillary yet). And three, Democrats continue to benefit from demographic trends that will be difficult for the GOP to overcome in 2016 -- and beyond. In a hypothetical matchup between Clinton and Christie, the poll finds the former Democratic secretary of state getting the support of 44% of all adults, while the Republican governor gets 34%. You might not think you need a poll to tell you these things, but a poll certainly helps to reinforce them.
*** Christie vs. a generic Republican: As mentioned above, our poll shows Republicans split over Christie: 32% would back him in a GOP primary, versus 31% who would support another Republican candidate. And it's instructive to study the crosstabs to see where Christie over-performs and under-performs here. He over-performs among women (35%), minorities (46%), seniors (48%), and people in the Northeast (57%) -- you know, the folks who don't dominate Republican primaries! But he under-performs among men (28%); Republicans ages 18-29, a la the Rand Paul crowd (15%); upper-income Republicans (26%); and residents in the Midwest (30%), South (27%), and West (22%) – or the Republicans who DO DOMINATE Republican primaries. This geographical divide is especially striking -- 57% support in the Northeast, but just 27% in the South and 22% in the West.
*** Clinton vs. a generic Democrat: It's equally instructive to see where Clinton over-performs against another Democrat. She gets 70% among females, 70% among whites, 71% among seniors, 72% among the lowest-income Democrats, and 73% in the Northeast and 70% in the Midwest. Where she underperforms is among men (62%), college grads (62%), and 60% among upper-income Democrats – these are the remnants of Obama's white coalition in the '08 Democratic race. But a reality check here: She's still getting SIXTY PERCENT among these folks, which suggests there isn't really a substantial opening for another Democratic candidate (whether it's Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, or anyone else). Remember, in 2005, there was some real Clinton fatigue among Democrats that provided the opening for Obama. That's not the evidence right now.
*** Demography continues to be destiny: As for our hypothetical general-election matchup between Clinton and Christie, Hillary is benefitting from the same demographic trends that helped President Obama win election in 2008 and re-election in 2012. She leads Christie among African Americans (83%-4%), respondents ages 18 to 29 (45%-31%), and Latinos (44%-33%). Clinton also holds the advantage with residents from the Northeast (52%-35%), West (43%-30%), the South (43%-35%) and Midwest (41%-37%). And she has a narrow edge among independents (39%-35%). Christie, meanwhile, leads among whites (41%-37%), seniors (44%-41%), and respondents with the highest incomes (46%-34%). Just what Republicans want to hear: They are the part of old rich white people? (By the way, see today's new L.A. Times poll of Californians, which should be a wakeup call to GOP officials nationally.) Folks, these numbers are pretty similar to the splits we saw between Obama and Romney in 2012. And the downside of being the ELECTABILITY candidate for Republicans? You better be leading (or close to it) against Clinton, and you better be performing better among particular demographic groups than Romney did. Right now, Christie isn't doing either.
*** Press appears to be more eager for a Dem challenger to Hillary than Democrats are: The political story that went viral yesterday was the New Republic piece on Elizabeth Warren and whether she might challenge Hillary Clinton in 2016 -- despite Hillary's numbers we mentioned above. From the article: "In addition to being strongly identified with the party's populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats' desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren." But here is the potential danger for Clinton: The political press corps appears to be MORE EAGER to search for a challenger for Clinton than Democrats are -- just see our poll.
*** About that pro-Hillary Super PAC: There's one more piece of 2016 news worth mentioning today. "On Tuesday, [former Obama top aide Mitch] Stewart and a dozen or so other political operatives and 170 donors will gather in New York to plot how to help Mrs. Clinton win in 2016. The meeting is the first national finance council strategy meeting of Ready for Hillary, a ‘super PAC' devoted to building a network to support Mrs. Clinton's potential presidential ambitions," the New York Times writes. Folks, it will be interesting to look through the Ready for Hillary FEC report when it comes out. Which consultants are making money?
*** Paper: Fewer than 50,000 have enrolled in the federal exchange: Turning from 2016 to the troubled Obamacare rollout, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that fewer than 50,000 people "had successfully navigated the troubled federal health-care website and enrolled in private insurance plans as of last week, two people familiar with the matter said, citing internal government data. The figure is a fraction of the Obama administration's target of 500,000 enrollees for October." But three caveats worth noting: 1) the 50,000 figure doesn't include those who signed up via the better-running state websites, 2) it doesn't include those who received insurance via expanded Medicaid, and 3) the administration always assumed most people would purchase their insurance in December, given that the insurance doesn't take effect until Jan. 1. And the fact that the federal exchange is behind schedule shouldn't surprise anyone. The website, after all, hasn't been working. As one health insurer told the Journal: "Given the problems we have witnessed and experienced, that [40,000 to 50,000] number is actually higher than I expected."
*** Herring now leads Obenshain in the VA AG race by 117 votes: And lastly, in the final undecided race from Election Day 2013, it appears that Democrat Mark Herring has taken the lead over Republican Mark Obenshain in Virginia's thisclose race for attorney general. The Washington Post: "Herring had started the day trailing his Republican opponent … by a mere 17 votes out of 2.2 million cast. But as jurisdictions across the state continued to scrub their vote counts, the State Board of Elections showed Herring with a 117-vote lead late Monday." More from the Post: "Local jurisdictions have until Tuesday at 6 p.m. to report their results to the State Board of Elections. The state then is scheduled to certify the results on Nov. 25. If the margin is less than 1 percent, either candidate can request a recount. If the margin is less than 0.5 percent, the state will pay for the recount." And it certainly looks like we're headed for a recount.