Never too early for Iowa caucus speculation

So what if the next Iowa caucuses are nearly four years away? I’m on Public Policy Polling’s wavelength: 2016 Iowa caucus polling is interesting, even if it doesn’t mean much now.

Disclaimer: there’s no guarantee that Iowa will get to lead off the nominating process during the next election cycle. Our chances of keeping our place in line are better if President Barack Obama is re-elected than if he loses to Mitt Romney, but either way, Iowans can’t take our first-in-the-nation status for granted.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume Iowa will be first in line again. Who would go into the next election with front-runner potential here? Public Policy Polling surveyed 346 Republican and 335 Democratic Iowa primary voters between May 3 and May 6. PPP’s margin of error is plus or minus 5.3 percent for the Iowa Republican survey and plus or minus 5.4 percent for the poll of Iowa Democrats. Tom Jensen summarized the findings here, and the full memo is here (pdf).

National surveys indicate that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most popular member of Obama’s cabinet and more popular than she was as first lady in the 1990s. If she runs for president in 2016, she would go into the Iowa caucus campaign as the candidate to beat.

Clinton has an 88/6 favorability rating with Democrats in the state. 62% say they would like her to be the nominee in 2016 to 14% for Joe Biden, 4% each for Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Cuomo, 2% each for Russ Feingold and Brian Schweitzer, 1% for Martin O’Malley, and 0% for Mark Warner. Clinton’s support is pretty universal. 66% of women, 57% of men, 65% of liberals, 58% of moderates, 63% of Democrats, and 61% of independents support her.

If Clinton doesn’t run Biden is next on the list for Iowa Democrats. He is almost as popular as Clinton, with a 76/8 favorability score. He would be the first choice of 28% of voters in a Clinton-less field to 14% for Cuomo, 10% for Warren, 9% for Feingold, 2% for Schweitzer, 1% for Warner, and 0% for O’Malley.

Things look like they would be really wide open in Iowa if neither Clinton nor Biden runs. None of the remaining candidates have much name recognition.

Assuming Romney loses to Obama this November, PPP found no GOP front-runner for the next Iowa caucuses. Jensen writes,

Maybe Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate in 2016 but if not the top tier of candidates in Iowa at this point is Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum at 16% and Chris Christie at 15%. We also tested Jeb Bush and Sarah Palin (both at 10%), Rand Paul (9%), Marco Rubio (7%), and Paul Ryan (5%).

Writing on talk radio host Steve Deace’s blog, Jen Green criticized Santorum for endorsing “an extremely flawed candidate who stands for nothing but against everything Santorum and his constituents/supporters do.” She quoted some well-known Santorum endorsers who indicated that they are through with the former senator now that he is backing Romney for president. One of them, Christian Reformed Church Pastor Aaron Gunsaulus of Newton, wrote a whole article accusing Santorum of “becoming the villain.” Excerpt:

In the final analysis, the person that this endorsement affects the most is Rick Santorum. He will now begin to hemorrhage potential supporters of any political future he might have hoped for, because Christians and other social conservatives have been assured that they do not have their champion in Rick Santorum. So whether the next round is in 2016 or 2020, they have already moved on.

The counter-argument is that even if Romney loses, Santorum will be “next in line,” which has typically been a good place for a Republican presidential candidate.

Spin your own 2016 Iowa caucus scenarios in this thread. What kind of Republican or Democrat is best positioned to do well here? Will top-tier candidates blow us off? I expect that to happen on the Republican side, but maybe not for Democrats.

  • O'Malley

    – won’t run if HRC is in it, period. I doubt Mark Warner runs either way.

    – interesting that Cuomo has (relatively) high name recognition in Iowa.

    – O’Malley trivia: He organized in Iowa for Gary Hart’s campaign in 1984.

    – they didn’t poll Vilsack, but he’s said he might be interested.

    2016 might sound the death knell for “retail” politics if, on the Dem side, one of Clinton, Biden or Vilsack lead the field while on the Republican side, Santorum/Huckabee as early favs drives non-socons away.

    • I wonder if some of the respondents

      were thinking of Mario Cuomo.

      I don’t think Vilsack will get far, but who knows?

      That is great trivia about O’Malley. Never heard that before.

  • Discuss among yourselves

    I’m a fan, but will HRC be too old?  What’s she gonna be?  69?  Yes, we all know how old The Gipper was when he took the helm…that was too old IMHO, and his dementia presented while he was still in office.

    I think HRC’s ship may have sailed, plus I don’t think she will want to do it. I think she wants to be a grandma, and will carve herself a niche a la WJC and Jimmy Carter. I think she has been a hardworking and effective SOS. I bet she is counting the days.  

  • Both sides

    If Obama wins r-election (looks likely) in my estimation no one should want it if they’re being politically smart.  There isn’t room for both Schweitzer and Warner, the Governor of Montana is more populist, but still too pragmatic for a Presidential primary field.  Warner is too rational as well.  

    The Chris Christie crush needs to stop, he’s pro-choice, sympathetic to gay rights for a Republican and not as fervently anti-labor as he or the union bosses like to pretend.  

  • How about some of the MN Dems in 2016?

    The GOP had 3 Minnesotans here in 2011.

    Mark Dayton, Amy Klobuchar, or Al Franken? Franken would fire up the base!

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