If you want to know whether likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers prefer former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vice President Joe Biden, or someone new as the next presidential nominee, it’s easy enough to ask that question.
Alternatively, if your goal is to show that the 2016 Iowa caucuses will be an exciting and unpredictable contest, you could play the game the Des Moines Register played in its latest Iowa poll.
Surveying 211 Iowa adults who identify as Democrats and 114 likely Iowa Democratic caucus-goers between September 22 and 25, Selzer & Co. asked the following question:
Regardless of your interest in attending a party caucus, what kind of Democratic candidate do you think stands the best chance of winning the presidency in the November 2016 election? (Rotate list.)
A candidate with decades of public service in the U.S. Senate and executive branch
A fresh face who will represent a new generation with new ideas
Note that Selzer & Co didn’t ask respondents what kind of presidential candidate they preferred–only what kind of candidate would have the best chance of winning the general election.
Nevertheless, Register columnist Kathie Obradovich rushed to tell readers that neither Clinton nor Biden has the caucuses locked up.
Try this question. True or false: Iowa Democrats are looking for a familiar face with copious experience in the 2016 presidential race, like Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?
Based on nearly all of my conversations with Democratic activists and leaders, I would say true. No question. Both Clinton and Biden have run before, both have served in the Senate and executive branches. Polls that mention these two by name tend to back that up.
But likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers are split on the type of candidate they think can win. A “fresh face who will represent a new generation with new ideas” just edges out “a candidate with decades of public service in the U.S. Senate and executive branch,” 49 percent to 48 percent.
Reading Jennifer Jacobs’ write-up of the same poll, it’s obvious that this “fresh face” question says little about whether Iowa Democrats would support Clinton for president at the caucuses.
But when Iowa Democrats were asked what kind of candidate they think stands the best chance of winning the presidency, 50 percent said it would be a fresh face who will represent a new generation with new ideas.
Just 41 percent opted for the other choice: someone with decades of public service in the U.S. Senate and executive branch. […]
One Democratic poll respondent, Jo Schoening, a retired Wellmark insurance worker from Huxley, explained: “I just think it’s time for a change, rather than the same old people – and I’m old!” Still, Schoening, 67, said she wouldn’t be opposed to voting for Clinton. […]
If Clinton runs, her challenge could be, despite her vast experience, to position herself as a candidate who would mint fresh ideas. Indeed, one Iowan said she answered “fresh face” in the poll because she’s a strong Clinton fan, and, to her, a woman in the White House would be a fresh face.
Efforts to portray Hillary Clinton as “old news” are doomed to fail. As former Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky told Obradovich, “I don’t know what could be a newer, fresher idea than a woman leader of this country.”
Take this to the bank: the only way Clinton won’t win the Iowa caucuses and the Democratic nomination in 2016 is if she doesn’t run for president again.