Political pundits widely believe it a foregone conclusion that former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will be the next president of the United States, winning the 2016 election against any Republican who opposes her. But new data from Gallup reveals that Clinton may have a much tougher battle on her hands than the experts seem to think.
Whereas in 2008 – the last time there was no incumbent president running for reelection – there were 29 solidly Democratic states compared to just 4 Republican ones, the changes in those numbers in 2013 are staggering: solid states for the two major parties are a 12-12 tie. When factoring in the states that lean one way or the other, the change in the political climate over the past five years is even more dramatic. The combined solid/leaning Democratic states in 2008 were 35, compared to just 5 Republican ones. In 2013, the Democrats held only a 3-point edge, 17-14.
The 2012 election is a bit different because an incumbent – Barack Obama – was involved, and incumbents historically have won reelection about 70% of the time. Even so, solid Democratic states in 2012 outnumbered Republican ones 13 to 9, as compared to the 12-12 tie, and when factoring in the ones leaning Democratic or Republican, the 2012 total was 19-12 in the Democrats’ favor, as opposed to 17-14 in 2013.
Clinton, who if elected would become the first female president in the nation’s history, has been voted “most admired woman” in numerous surveys for several years in a row now. She has a strong fundraising network and a husband – Bill – who despite having been impeached for lying under oath, about an affair with a 21 year-old White House intern Monica Lewinsky, left the presidency in January 2001 with high approval ratings, and would have beaten virtually anyone – according to polls – in 2000, had he been Constitutionally eligible to seek a third term. Electing Hillary, therefore, is a way to get Bill back to the White House. But that is not necessarily good news to everyone: President Clinton’s affair with Lewinsky allegedly took place in great part in the White House, and so to a lot of people, Clinton does not belong back there – in any capacity.
Republican Senator (KY) and projected 2016 presidential candidate Rand Paul recently said on Meet the Press that Clinton’s relationship with Lewinsky went beyond a typical affair – it was the most powerful man in the world taking advantage of a then-20 year-old woman. Though Paul added that Hillary should not be faulted for her husband’s infidelity, the Lewinsky affair must be considered when judging President Clinton’s place in history.
Personalities aside, many Americans also remember that before Obamacare, there was Hillarycare – a health care system proposed by Hillary and conveyed by Bill in the early 1990s that was rejected on the same grounds as the strong opposition to Obamacare today.
In another poll last month, NJ Governor Chris Christie held a slim lead over Hillary Clinton, further bolstering the argument that she can be beaten. Since then, however, Christie has been mired in his own difficulties, stemming from the yet-to-be-resolved Bridgegate scandal, which involved some of his staff allegedly ordering lanes of the George Washington Bridge to be closed, creating massive traffic jams, supposedly to punish Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not supporting Christie in his 2013 reelection bid (Sokolich is a Democrat; Fort Lee is the city on the New Jersey side of the Bridge – the other side connects to New York State through the Upper Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights).
Though the press often describes Christie as reeling polls show that the scandal has not hurt his approval ratings significantly. Besides Christie and Paul, other Republican hopefuls often mentioned are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush – son of President George H.W. Bush, and brother of President George W. Bush, former Arkansas Governor and current Fox talk show host Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio – U.S. Senators from Texas and Florida, respectively – both of whom are of Latino descent and, if elected, would be the first Latino-American president.
Despite Gallup’s new revelations, Clinton remains the favorite to win the election in 2016, and the Democrats in general maintain an edge state-by-state. But the numbers point out that the race may be more competitive than originally believed.