Hillary Clinton is still leading the pack, but e. g. in N.H. according to RCP average she leads Sanders only by one point and nationally she is ahead of Trump by just 6 points. Does is mean that at this moment Hillary is in some troubles, or not so much, and why? Read few comments?
Diana Carlin, Associate Vice President for Graduate Education & International Initiatives, Professor of Communication, Saint Louis University
The recent surge in the polls in New Hampshire by Bernie Sanders and more modest gains in Iowa raise questions about potential problems for Hillary Clinton going forward. In national polls with match-ups against Republican candidates, Clinton has a narrow lead–although outside the margins–over Donald Trump. In regards to the Democratic primary, in my opinion, there are three explanations. First, Senator Sanders has the advantage of being able to talk about issues while Hillary Clinton is explaining and defending her personal e-mail server and its contents. She was off message during part of the polling period. Sanders is consciously not attacking her but staying positive and letting others attack. This further enables him to come off as a positive candidate with ideas for change while Clinton is talking about the past. Second, Sanders is from neighboring Vermont and has more name recognition than others in the Democratic field. New Hampshire and Vermont tend to be more liberal and Sanders appeals to those voters. Third, before reaching any conclusions on the long-term threat Sanders poses to Clinton, it is important to remember that with five months to go before the primary, there are multiple lifetimes where polling data is going to shift. Watching Iowa and national polls (where Clinton has a 20-point lead) over the next several weeks will provide a better indicator of whether the Sanders surge is a blip on the screen or shows weaknesses in the Clinton campaign.
On the general election match-up against Trump, my interpretation is similar to that for Sanders. Trump is garnering considerable media attention and early polling often reflects name recognition. Right now, Trump is seen as an anecdote to business as usual in Washington. Given the low popularity of Congress and the President, it is more a reflection of wanting something different. As more voters become more engaged as primaries draw closer, as there are more debates and issues rather than personalities become more important, there will be shifts again.
Overall, is Hillary Clinton in trouble? Hillary Clinton with the exception of Donald Trump is the best known candidate in either party, and she has political baggage unlike that of any other candidate. She has always been a polarizing political figure and some of what is happening now is a reflection on her past. There are voters who want another choice. But she also is an excellent campaigner and will get back on message and will do the face-to-face campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire that gets out the votes. If she gets back on message and puts the e-mail and Benghazi controversies to rest she will establish a level of trust that the controversies are chipping away at. If she does well against Sanders and others in debates leading up to Iowa and New Hampshire, the race is likely to shift again. At this point, I would expect there to be continued shifts in the polls and that Clinton will lead in her primary by the time of Iowa and New Hampshire assuming she shifts the media stories, but she will have to fight for the lead. As she learned in 2008, nothing is certain in politics.
Christopher Larimer, Associate Professor of Political Science, University of Northern Iowa
I think there are certainly some doubts about Hillary at this point, and those voters who were hesitant about her campaign before, are even more so now. However, among Democrats, while her approval and trait (honesty and trust) ratings have declined, I don’t see this as a major problem the closer we get to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Hillary has such an enormous lead in what we call the “invisible primary” (locking up early donors and endorsements) and her competition within the Democratic Party is not particularly strong, and in the case of Bernie Sanders, not particularly viable as a general election candidate given his self-declared status as a socialist. My sense is that many of these disapproving Democrats will come around by February. The danger for Hillary right now is that this story makes her a potentially weaker general election candidate.
Joseph Bafumi, Associate Professor of Government, Dartmouth College
I think Hillary is in a bit of trouble but it’s hard to know how much yet. The investigation into what emails she saved on her server has just begun. It could go nowhere or be a real problem for her. Right now, she still looks to be the front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Most people are awaiting more information but for some this new investigation cements their concerns about Hillary’s trustworthiness. This helps Sanders and may encourage Biden to join the race. Remember also that Sanders is from Vermont and is a well-known figure in NH. This helps his numbers here.
It’s very early. I think a lot of people are in wait and see mode right now on the Democratic side. Hillary race isn’t derailed but some people think it could be. The results of the FBI investigation into the emails will dictate if this happens.
Justin Holmes, Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Northern Iowa
A few thoughts:
1. This is still pretty early polling, and one has to be careful about reading too much into them. Especially the national polls (New Hampshire isn’t so far away anymore).
2. To my mind, what the closing of the race shows, to a large extent, is the return to a normal primary for the Democrats this year. It was extremely unusual to only have one serious candidate in the race. In general, it is rare to have someone in a primary be as unchallenged as Clinton was, and typically, once the primaries start, even the over all winner will lose a few states.
3. There are some concerns for Clinton here. First, she has some actual competition, which I’m not sure she had expected. Second, New Hampshire gets a lot of attention, and a loss there would not be good. A third concern for her not mentioned in these polls,and I think the biggest) is that Sanders is doing as well in the polling for the general election against Republicans as she is. One of her arguments has been that she is the electable one, but it is likely that some people who were backing her because they thought sanders couldn’t win may now back Sanders instead.
4. There are a few reasons the new Hampshire poll isn’t such a big deal perhaps. First, it’s not the end of the world to lose New Hampshire, and she is still beating Sanders by a large margin in Iowa, and those are back to back contests. Second, New Hampshire is probably someplace that sanders would especially expect to do well, since it is a neighboring state. Finally, since the US changed the primary system in 1972, the nominee from each party has always been the one with more endorsements from party elites (primarily various elected officials, and key interest groups). Clinton is far ahead of Sanders here, though he does have some party support.
5. I don’t think the Trump Results say much of anything about the general for her. If we look at past elections, a six point lead is a pretty good margin in a general election. It does, however, potentially cement Trump as a genuine contender for the Republican nomination (though I have my doubts).
John Pitney, Professor of Politics, Claremont McKenna College
Hillary Clinton is still very likely to be the Democratic nominee. But with Sanders rising and Biden considering the race, her path to the nomination will be more difficult than she had thought.
Many Democrats, like many Republicans, think that corporate interests have too much influence on the government. Over the decades, Bill and Hillary Clinton have raised millions from those interests, both for their campaigns and for the Clinton Foundation. She is simply not a plausible champion of anti-corporate populism.
Moreover, the Democratic party is moving to the left. Not long ago, an avowed socialist could not have been a serious contender for the presidential nomination. But now, a substantial number of Democrats are willing to consider a socialist.