July 6, 2015 — All of a sudden at the 4th of July holiday break, we’re seeing some major action on the Democratic presidential front. One candidate is filling arenas and making gains in the polls, a new contender made official his campaign and a major luminary is now sending signals that he will enter the presidential fracas at the end of the month.
The activity may be a signal that Democratic insiders and polling respondents are becoming less confident that Hillary Clinton can win the 2016 general election, more than witnessing any one opponent with a chance of becoming strong enough to make the nomination race a true contest.
First, in Iowa, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is drawing crowds in the thousands as he rails in speeches against Wall Street and stakes out the far left’s faction within the Democratic base. The response to his personal appearances is reflected in polls, but the Sanders’ message may not be the main underlying reason for his commensurate support level increase.
Quinnipiac University just released their new Iowa Democratic poll (June 20-29; 761 likely Iowa Democratic Caucus attenders) and finds Sen. Sanders more than doubling his support level from their previous poll. He rose to 33 percent from a base of 15 percent in the organization’s May survey. At the same time, Clinton’s support dropped from 60 to 52 percent.
The Sanders surge should be understood for what it is … less of a vote for the Vermont senator than a revealing trepidation toward Clinton amongst the Democratic base voters and activists, the very people who will be attending the early February Hawkeye State local caucus meetings.
In a story that will soon become unimportant, former Virginia senator Jim Webb (D) officially announced his presidential candidacy. Webb is nowhere in the polls and has little in the way of a national Democratic fundraising base. Despite being a Democratic elected official – one who chose not to seek a second term in the US Senate – Webb is not a favorite among Democratic donors and activists. A former Republican and US Navy Secretary under President Ronald Reagan, Webb’s liberal credentials are too weak to be taken seriously as a national opponent for Clinton, and even Sen. Sanders. For example, Webb scores just one percent preference in the aforementioned Iowa Q-Poll.
Finally, Vice President Joe Biden, not previously expected to run for President, particularly when showing so poorly in polls against Clinton, now appears to be moving toward entering the race. Stories are leaking that his late son, former Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden who tragically died last month from a brain tumor, encouraged him to again run for president, as have other family members.
Though he has a national network of Democratic donors who would likely raise a large amount of campaign capital for him, Biden’s single-digit support numbers are highly unusual for a sitting scandal-free vice president within his own political party. Though Biden may well enter the race, he still has a mountain to climb in order to establish himself as Hillary Clinton’s most legitimate opponent.
While the huge number of Republican presidential candidates has been attracting the most early campaign attention, the Democrats are apparently on the precipice of becoming interesting.
The 2016 campaign is proving itself unpredictable at almost every turn, and we haven’t even officially kicked-off.