Two Quick Reminders About Early Poll-Watching

Two 2016 polls came out today; one, by WMUR, tested New Hampshire voters; the other by Public Policy Polling, was national. The results were quite similar: In NH, Hillary Clinton is trouncing Joe Biden by about a 6-1 margin with all the others “mentioned” lagging in single digits, while five Republicans (Rubio, Bush, Paul, Christie and Ryan) are virtually tied with numbers in the teens. Nationally, HRC leads Biden better than 5-1 while nobody else breaks 5%; among Republicans four are virtually tied in the teens, with Paul Ryan a little farther back.

The most obvious thing to remember is that this is crazy early to be polling for 2016. That does not mean the numbers are meaningless, particularly on the Democratic side, where Clinton’s massive early lead, if it persists for the next year, could lead potential rivals to make other plans.

But there’s another thing useful about such polls, particularly in the near future: they will provide a good barometer of whether general media perceptions of this or that politician’s standing are being reflected among the partisan voters who will for the most part actual determine the presidential nominations. To give an example, a few more months of Benghazi! will very likely damage Hillary Clinton’s overall numbers (if only because she actually has a small but significant number of Republicans giving her positive job approval ratings). But it will be interesting to see if it has any effect on the kind of voters who will participate in the Iowa Caucuses or New Hampshire primary.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.