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POLITICS: Campaigns

Hillary Clinton under 50 percent in bellwether state

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Beltway Confidential,Virginia,Michael Barone,Joe Biden,Hillary Clinton,Polls,2016 Elections,Rand Paul,Campaigns,Chris Christie

The latest Quinnipiac poll in Virginia has Hillary Clinton leading Chris Christie by a statistically insignificant 42 percent to 41 percent. It also has Clinton leading Rand Paul 49 to 40. Christie leads Biden by a whopping 47 to 35 and Paul leads Biden by a statistically insignificant 43 to 42.

Virginia has been the nation's bellwether state in the last two presidential elections, voting 53 percent to 46 percent for Barack Obama in 2008 and 51 to 47 for Obama in 2012. No other state came closer to the national averages in either election, though Virginia is by no means demographically identical to the nation as a whole (as has been the case with bellwethers over the years).

So Clinton's performance here may have some national significance (and at the very least indicates that she currently doesn't have a lock on Virginia's 13 electoral votes). It's also a downtick for her from Quinnipiac's results in August and July, when she led Christie 46 to 37 and 45 to 40 respectively. Biden, who is the closest thing to a generic Democrat among potential candidates with national name identification, polled about the same in all three polls, which is to say miserably.

One shouldn't read too much into subgroup results, since the error margin is much greater than with the top line numbers. But it may be notable that Clinton is running behind Christie 42 to 39 among young voters (18-34), while carrying the two older age groups. Biden, in contrast, trails Christie less among the younger than among the older groups. The 2012 exit poll, in contrast, shows Obama leading among young voters (here 18-29) by 25 percent and among the slightly older (30-44) by 10 percent, while trailing Mitt Romney among those older: similar to the national pattern and to the pattern in the Clinton-Christie pairings in Quinnipiac's August and July Virginia polls.

Is it possible that young voters have soured on Clinton? Maybe. She is pretty old news: her national celebrity goes back to her speech at her 1969 Wellesley commencement and her political involvement goes back to working with Bill Clinton when he was Texas coordinator for George McGovern's campaign in 1972. (I once asked the late Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen if he had worked with Clinton at the time, when I supposed he might have since he was the state's Democratic U.S. senator then; Bentsen said that he hadn't met Clinton then.) Of course Joe Biden's political career goes back just as far: He was elected to the New Castle County Council in 1970 and to the U.S. Senate in 1972. If either of them is elected president in 2016, she or he could celebrate his 50th year in politics in the White House.

I think at this point, Clinton's weak showing among young voters in Virginia has to be taken as no more than statistical noise, but you might want to keep your eyes open for similar poll results there or elsewhere.

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Author:

Michael Barone

Senior Political Analyst
The Washington Examiner