The 2016 presidential election is still years off, but for Democrats, some early surveys have already identified former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden as the clear frontrunners in the race -- if they chose to enter it.
According to a recent survey by McClatchy-Marist, Clinton and Biden, when pitted separately against four top Republican possibilities -- Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former Gov. Jeb Bush, R-Fla. -- easily beat all but Christie. The survey, conducted from March 25-27, showed Clinton narrowly beating Christie and Biden narrowly losing to him.
"We're seeing the aftermath of 2012 still casting a cloud on 2016," said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, in a statement.
Clinton, who on Tuesday night delivered her first public speech since leaving the State Department, performed particularly well when stacked up against the GOP contenders, racking up a 12-point victory over Rubio, an 11-point lead over Paul, and a 16-point lead over Bush. Christie, whom she beat 46-43, gave her the most trouble.
Even so, a new Quinnipiac poll doesn't exactly show the New Jersey governor as the overwhelming GOP frontrunner: The survey, conducted March 26-April 1 among 1,711 registered voters, showed Christie trailing Rubio, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Paul in a five-way horserace. Rubio topped the field with 19 percent support; Ryan followed with 17 percent, Paul earned 15 percent, Christie 14 percent, and Bush 10 percent.
The survey also showed a dip in support for Christie, who in a previous poll had emerged as a leader.
"Three years before the nominating process, the Republicans have no clear favorite," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. "Sen. Marco Rubio benefits from his exposure giving the GOP response to the State of the Union while Congressman Paul Ryan is known as the Republican vice presidential candidate. But history tells us being the running-mate on a losing ticket does not help one's presidential chances. The last three Republicans in that spot were Sarah Palin, Jack Kemp and Dan Quayle, while the Democrats in that role were John Edwards, Joe Lieberman and Lloyd Bentsen."