Reprinted from Reader Supported News
Put yourself in the shoes of your friend who doesn't have the time or the interest to follow politics until just before the election. You get a call from a pollster who asks you if you support Elizabeth Warren, Martin O'Malley, Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, or Jim Webb. The only one you ever heard of was Hillary Clinton. Odds are at this stage you are going to say you support Hillary Clinton. After all, you are a Democrat, and you have no idea who the others are. Name recognition helps in the early polls, but as the campaign goes forward and the other candidates introduce themselves to the American people, it becomes less and less important.
Hillary Clinton was out in front in 2007 before the campaign kicked into gear. It wasn't as big a lead but the opposition was better known. Obama had given the keynote address at the Democratic Convention in 2004, and John Edwards ran for president in the previous election, so voters knew he was.
As late as October everything pointed to a Clinton victory: "Gallup's 2007 national presidential polling strongly points to Clinton winning the 2008 Democratic nomination. Barring something unusual or otherwise unexpected, she is well positioned for the 2008 Democratic primaries."
With April 2015 approaching, no candidates have declared on the Democratic side. In 2007, Hillary declared in January, and this is how the race was viewed by the Washington Post on the day she launched:
"Clinton begins the long campaign as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination, according to a nationwide Washington Post-ABC News poll completed Friday night. The poll showed her the favorite of 41 percent of Democrats, giving her more than double the support of any of her potential rivals.
"Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, who established his exploratory committee last week, has generated enormous interest and attention, putting the Clinton camp on notice. The poll put him in second place among Democrats at 17 percent, but his support has not increased over the past month as he has moved toward a formal candidacy."
Her polling numbers are much stronger this time around, but as I explained above, she had opposition from better-known candidates like Obama and Edwards. Also remember that Obama was expected to run and was at 17%. This time around, Warren keeps saying No and is at 19%. There is no one in the field like Edwards, who ran in 2004 and had an organization intact in 2007.
Here in Iowa, the voters expect to see the candidates six or seven times before they make up their minds. I have attended two Democratic Party dinners in the last month. One of them was in Story County, where an audience of 500 heard a keynote speech delivered by Senator Bernie Sanders. The crowd loved Bernie, and everyone I spoke to afterwards said he was a candidate they could support. Last week I attended the "Red, White & Blue" dinner in Scott County. Not only was O'Malley well received but attendees told me they don't think Hillary has the support in Iowa that the polls show.
Let's remember, the attendees of these dinners are the active Democrats, the ones who donate to the party, volunteer, and work on campaigns. These are the people who will deliver more votes to a candidate. I was unable to find any Hillary supporters, and when asked if they thought Hillary had Iowa in the bag, they all said no. In Iowa, caucus-goers expect to be wooed.
So I had an idea of where the active Democrats stood. It was time to seek out the rank and file Democrats. I headed to Java Joe's Coffeehouse in downtown Des Moines. I started out asking general questions about the caucuses to weed out the Republicans (lots of support for Rand Paul and Scott Walker), who interestingly enough were not in the Jeb Bush camp. Many told me they didn't want to see another Bush or Clinton.
Democrats felt the same way. And my suspicions were correct: most people didn't know any other prospective candidate besides Vice President Biden. Biden didn't have any support in the room that morning. Most people told me they hope other alternatives emerge. Most didn't know much about Elizabeth Warren -- not a good sign for her backers, but it is early.
I spoke to 18 Democrats that morning, not a large enough sample size to draw any real conclusions. I did ask them who they supported among the prospective candidates, and I included "Undecided" as an option. Twelve of the 18 polled were undecided, three supported Hillary Clinton, one supported Bernie Sanders, one supported Elizabeth Warren, and one answered none of the above, we need more options. So that is 66% undecided, 16% for Hillary and 5% for Sanders and Warren. The sample size is small, but I think those numbers are closer to the reality of where voters stand in Iowa.
I will continue to search for the Clinton supporters -- maybe they are just waiting for her to announce, but so far they are nowhere to be found.
Hillary Clinton may well win the Democratic nomination, but she does not have it in the bag. She is going to have to earn it, something she failed to do in 2008.