The most important takeaway from the new NBC News poll on the 2016 presidential race: Everybody calm down. Nothing has changed.
The survey, published Tuesday, found Republicans split over their future options, with the establishment versus tea party schism aptly represented by a dead heat between those backing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and those who said they'd prefer another (unnamed) candidate.
And on the Democratic side, Hillary Rodham Clinton was clocking the field, en route to handily outdistancing Christie in a head-to-head contest.
None of it means anything, given the distance from today until election day of 2016, but it may serve to temporarily silence the media-fanned brouhaha this week that had Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren challenging Clinton for the Democratic nomination. And Clinton being very, very afraid.
It started with a New York Times profile of Warren several weeks ago but escalated this week when the New Republic declared, in a cover story, that Warren was Hillary Clinton’s “nightmare,” a woman who could become the “face of the insurgency” against Clinton’s inevitable nomination by summoning roiling anger toward Wall Street and Washington.
Never mind that Warren has repeatedly said that she is not running for president (for that matter, Clinton hasn’t confirmed she is either). And that Warren was among the Democratic female senators who signed a letter pleading with Clinton to run for president. (The letter was secret until Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina slipped and mentioned it during a New York fundraiser). And never mind that Clinton and Warren occupy much the same ideological territory.
The Warren-for-president boomlet stirred from two colliding circumstances. First, the temporary diversion of the 2013 elections ceased Nov. 5. The 2014 races are a ways off. The 2016 presidential contest is a very long way off—no one is officially running, yet—and something must fill the yawning vacuum of political intrigue. So ‘tis the season of boomlets and trial balloons and hints, and tossing something out there to see if it flies.
The second circumstance is the presumption that in politics, “no” isn’t really “no” until the speaker is dead or indicted, and sometimes not even then. Almost everyone who runs first says they have no intention of it—intention being a malleable word—or that they’re content doing the job they have and letting things figure themselves out.
Presidential campaigns are not things that can figure themselves out, however; they are akin to cranking together a massive start-up with little capital and even less chance of success. They take time and planning--at least the victorious ones do--so everyone is always on the lookout for those first steps to be taken.
That said, as the NBC poll suggested, everything is basically where it has been. Among Democratically inclined voters, Clinton won the support of 66%, to 14% who said they preferred someone else.
Among Republicans and GOP-leaners, 32% backed Christie and 31% wanted the other hypothetical candidate. Christie was strong in the Northeast, which is fairly meaningless for a Republican candidate, since that’s part of the Democratic base. He was weaker in the South, a GOP stronghold, and the battlegrounds of the West and Midwest.
In the general election matchup, Christie did not fit the larger-than-life image that backers have attached to him since his easy reelection victory last week. Rather, his is a pretty standard GOP profile: He won white and senior voters narrowly and, with a larger margin, wealthier voters.
Clinton won all areas of the country against Christie; demographically she seized all the voter groups that both sides fight over.
Overall, she had 44% to Christie’s 34%.
On to 2016.