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The Small Way the 2016 Race Already Matters

The 2012 election just ended but already there is polling of the 2016 Presidential contest. Just today there is a poll out by PPP which shows Hillary Clinton and VP Joe Biden leading a potential Democratic primary field. From PPP:

57% of Democrats would like Clinton to be their candidate in 2016. Only Joe Biden at 16% also hits double digits. Beyond them it’s Andrew Cuomo and Elizabeth Warren at 4%, Martin O’Malley at 3%, Deval Patrick and Mark Warner at 2%, and Kirsten Gillibrand and Brian Schweitzer at 1%.

If Clinton and Biden sit it out, it’s an incredibly wide open race. Cuomo gets 19%, Warren 16%, O’Malley 7%, Patrick 6%, Gillibrand 5%, Warner 4%, and Schweitzer 2% but the big winner is ‘undecided’ at 40%. The high level of indecision is a function of most of the Democrats being relatively unknown- Warren (60%) and Cuomo (56%) have slightly over 50% name recognition, but none of the others are over 30%.

From a horse race or election result prediction perspective these numbers have basically little real value, but that doesn’t mean what is happening in the “2016 race” is completely without meaning at this time. The politicians that may want to be president are already taking 2016 very seriously and many of them, like say Governor Cuomo or Senator Gillibrand, currently hold significantly power.

What roles potential candidates think they need to play to be viable in 2016 could significantly influence what votes they cast, what bills they veto, and what policies they champion at this moment. The leverage points activists and lobbyists can use against a governor with an eye on a presidential run are very different from the leverage those same people have over a governor that is only interested in re-election.

The fact that the top contenders at this moment are two Obama administration officials, Clinton and Biden, could give that second-tier a real incentive to try to stand apart from the administration. Either by being noticeably more liberal or conservative in specific issues.

Much of the speculation about an election almost four years off is worthless nonsense, but that doesn’t mean people should completely overlook how that election could affect the important decisions some people in power are making right now.

Photo by Rennett Stowe under Creative Commons license

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Jon Walker

Jon Walker

Jonathan Walker grew up in New Jersey. He graduated from Wesleyan University in 2006. He is an expert on politics, health care and drug policy. He is also the author of After Legalization and Cobalt Slave, and a Futurist writer at