Of late, there seems to be a list of sure things in American politics: Republicans will threaten to use their new Senate majority to undermine the policies of Democrats, African-American racial watchdogs will criticize the police, and Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for the presidential race of 2016. And while Republican Senators could conceivably reach across the aisle and Jesse Jackson could go on vacation, there seems to be no legitimate reason to question Hillary’s ’16 nod.
But is that changing? A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll of likely voters shows Clinton’s popularity dropping by a brow-raising ten points. The obvious concern raised by this, of course, is the prospect of her failure to receive the Democratic nomination in 2016, which, it must be admitted, would almost certainly be a disaster for the Democrats. With Republicans proving their momentum in the 2014 midterms and current President Barack Obama showing glaring unpopularity, the next election is sure to be a difficult one for the left and a powerhouse candidate like Hillary ñ with broad appeal both among her own party and the undecided center, particularly women ñ is all but required to take a serious shot at the White House. The prospect of the infamously loquacious Joe Biden facing off against Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, or even another attempt by Mitt Romney does not inspire confidence in the Democrats’ chances.
Fortunately, circumstances are almost certainly not so dire. While Clinton’s slip in the polls has been unquestionably precipitous, it was not altogether unexpected. Coming off her role as Secretary of State and needing to retool her image as she gears up for the coming presidential campaign, Hillary was sure to lose some stragglers too stubborn or uncommitted to follow her into any new territory. Recently, she conducted a book tour that obviated her shift, clearly trying to sound less like a loyal servant of the Obama administration and more like a potential President in her own right. Her old job is over, and her future is going to be very different.
Her drop in support should be taken as a relative measure, as well. While she has lost ten points, that still leaves her forty-seven points above her nearest competitor for the nod, the previously mentioned and current Vice President, Joe Biden. Below that sits Senator Elizabeth Warren, a point under Biden and also little threat to Hillary.
So, Clinton’s place as the Democratic messiah is secure, for now. But with the better part of two years still to go, her numbers bear watching.