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Early 2016 talk centers on Clinton, Christie

Volunteers with the “Ready for Hillary” super PAC held a rally in Beverly Hills, Calif., in May. Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

There is no guarantee that when the American people head to the polls in November 2016 they will have the choice of voting for Hillary Clinton or Chris Christie. But should that hypothetical matchup turn into a reality three years down the road, the early advantage goes to the former secretary of state. The Morning Line

According to a poll released Tuesday by NBC News, Clinton holds a 44 percent to 34 percent lead over Christie in a potential head-to-head contest. The Democrat draws solid support from groups that helped elect and re-elect President Barack Obama, including African-Americans (83 percent to 4 percent), voters under the age of 30 (45 percent to 31 percent) and Latinos (44 percent to 33 percent)

NBC News’ Mark Murray breaks down some of the other findings from the survey:

Clinton also holds the advantage with residents from the Northeast (52 percent to 35 percent), West (43 percent to 30 percent), the South (43 percent to 35 percent) and Midwest (41 percent to 37 percent). And she has a narrow edge among independents (39 percent to 35 percent).

Christie, meanwhile, leads among whites (41 percent to 37 percent), seniors (44 percent to 41 percent) and respondents with an annual income of $75,000 or more (46 percent to 34 percent).

There has been no shortage of buzz surrounding Christie in the aftermath of his 22-point reelection rout in the Garden State last Tuesday, but Republican voters across the country appear to be far more divided about the governor’s national prospects going forward.

The NBC poll showed Christie was favored by 32 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning respondents in a potential GOP presidential primary, while 31 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer another candidate.

In Sunday’s New York Times, Jonathan Martin examined the skepticism toward Christie among some conservative Republicans:

The more the news media and the establishment cheer on Mr. Christie, the more grass-roots activists — especially members of the Tea Party — resent it. Mr. Christie appeared this weekend on four of the Sunday morning talk shows. Chuck Henderson, a Tea Party activist from Manhattan, Kan., nearly shouted into the phone when asked by a reporter about the idea of Mr. Christie as a presidential candidate.

“He won his re-election, bully for him, but for him to make the jump up the next rung of the ladder, well, he’s not going to find any support from the people I mix with,” Mr. Henderson said.

Among Democrats, the NBC poll tells a different story, with 66 percent of left-leaning voters saying they would back Clinton in a primary. Just 14 percent of Democratic respondents said they’d favor another candidate.

The survey comes as Clinton supporters prepare to hold the first national finance meeting of Ready for Hillary, the super PAC formed to help lay the groundwork should the former Secretary of State decide to launch another White House bid. The New York Times’ Amy Chozick previews the gathering:

Mrs. Clinton has never had a problem raising money from deep-pocketed donors, but her 2008 campaign lacked the grass-roots enthusiasm and modest Internet donations that buoyed Mr. Obama. Ready for Hillary hopes to build that kind of support.

A grass-roots super PAC may seem an oxymoron: such groups can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money on political races as long as they do not coordinate with a candidate. But rather than invest in expensive television ads, Ready for Hillary puts all of its donations into building its email list of supporters.

For every $25,0000 the group raises, it cuts a payment to Rising Tide Interactive, a firm that helps build online lists of supporters. A social media tool on the website will allow supporters to work together to organize to plan rallies and small-dollar fund-raising events. With no candidate and over a year before a potential campaign, Ready for Hillary has roughly a million names on its email list, about half the size of the Hillary for President campaign list at the time Mrs. Clinton suspended her campaign in 2008.

Given Clinton’s universal name recognition and strong support among Democrats, she can afford to wait on making any 2016 moves. But longtime Clinton adviser Harold Ickes, who is involved with the super PAC, told the New York Daily News that the party can’t hold out forever on the chance that Clinton decides not to run.

“She has the luxury of more time than others do, because she has a national fundraising base; she has a national political base, so to speak, and Ready For Hillary is supportive of that,” Ickes said. “But at some point, she’s going to have to decide so that if she decides no, others can assemble a campaign,” he added.

One name that has come up in recent days as a potential threat to a Clinton candidacy is Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber writes that the first-term Massachusetts Democrat has the populist appeal and fund-raising strength to take on the front-runner:

In addition to being strongly identified with the party’s populist wing, any candidate who challenged Clinton would need several key assets. The candidate would almost certainly have to be a woman, given Democrats’ desire to make history again. She would have to amass huge piles of money with relatively little effort. Above all, she would have to awaken in Democratic voters an almost evangelical passion. As it happens, there is precisely such a person. Her name is Elizabeth Warren.

Slate’s Dave Weigel suggests that political journalists are dreaming of a potential Democratic fight that is more fantasy than reality. He points out the the New Republic story fails to compare Warren to Obama’s support from non-white voters who caused Clinton’s primary upset in 2008.

Simply by existing, articles like these make a progressive upset of Hillary Clinton more likely. They alter the odds from zero to zero. Several things can be true–Warren can be outsmarting the financial industry, the Clintons can be worried about a shift in the Democratic Party, Warren might be more likely to run if Clinton does than if Clinton doesn’t–without there being any chance of the front-runner losing. Actually, the idea that an insurgency needs to seize a presidency in order to win is sort of retrograde, and it’s surprising that the disappointing (for progressives and a whole lot of other people) victory of Barack Obama hasn’t cured it.

For now, the nascent 2016 talk is likely to remain focused on Clinton and Christie. With 1,092 days until Election Day, one thing is for certain: a lot can and will change between now and then.


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NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

  • Gwen Ifill is scheduled to interview former Vice President Dick Cheney Tuesday about his new book. Tune in to the NewsHour at 6 p.m. on our livestream to watch.

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  • Keep an eye on the Rundown blog for breaking news throughout the day, our home page for show segments, and follow @NewsHour for the latest.


Christina Bellantoni, Simone Pathe and Bridget Bowman contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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