Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren says she is not considering a run for president in 2016, but should she change her mind, a race against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination could turn out to be highly competitive, said Doug Schoen.
In an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal
, the former political adviser and pollster for former President Bill Clinton, said that although national polling shows Clinton with an overwhelming lead, Warren's gap in early primary states such as Iowa and New Hampshire would likely be much smaller.
Specifically, while a recent CNN/ORC national poll had Clinton at a 66 percent to 9 percent advantage, polling Schoen has done in Iowa gave Clinton just a 15 point advantage of 51 percent to 36 percent, with high favorability ratings for both women.
And in New Hampshire, Clinton is ahead of Warren among likely Democratic voters by just nine points, or 51 percent to 42 percent. The two also had virtually identical high favorability ratings, he said.
"Mrs. Clinton's favorables don't appear to make her invulnerable to a populist challenge from the left, as a Warren campaign would almost certainly be. My polling shows that there is a significant opening with Democratic primary voters who are extremely liberal in ideology and populist in orientation," he wrote.
"I also tested Mrs. Clinton's message, based on her public statements, of charting a new direction and standing up for working people against Ms. Warren's more explicitly populist direction in which government addresses fundamental unfairness in American society through more oversight of Wall Street and policies to reduce income inequality. In that message comparison, Ms. Warren polled a mere four points behind Mrs. Clinton, at 31 percent to 35 percent," he said.
Schoen said that when New Hampshire residents were polled specifically about Clinton's and Warren's image and messages, Warren polled ahead of Clinton.
Clinton was described as close to Wall Street and a supporter of the Iraq war, while Warren was described as a true progressive who stands up to Wall Street. In that case, Warren polled at 47 percent compared to 42 percent for Clinton.
"Given that front-runners in primaries typically draw their highest poll numbers at the start of a race, when their name-recognition advantage is most pronounced, Mrs. Clinton's best hope would be to solidify her current support. Worst case: She suffers the same slippage she did in Iowa in 2008 when she finished a poor third after showing a resounding lead of 58 percent-12 percent over then-Sen. Obama," he wrote.
"The implications are clear. Hillary Clinton is vulnerable in the Democratic primaries, something her new adviser Joel Benenson (currently an Obama pollster who previously worked for me) is presumably in the process of finding out."
He added that his results suggest that other potential candidates who have populist messages could also narrow Clinton's current lead, such as former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Schoen concluded by saying, "The Democratic presidential contest could go very quickly from a foregone conclusion to a fierce contest."
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