The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Morning Plum: Among Democrats, Hillary leads Bernie and Biden on all the issues

As we continue to wait for Joe Biden to tell us whether he will run for president, a new CNN poll brings us what I believe is the most comprehensive polling yet on which candidate Democrats prefer on the issues — and Hillary Clinton leads Biden and Bernie Sanders on all of them.

The new poll casts doubt on whether there is all that much of a clamor among Democrats for Biden to enter the race.

The poll finds Clinton leading Sanders and Biden among self-described Democratic voters and Dem-leaning independent voters: she has 45 percent; Sanders has 29 percent; and Biden has 18 percent. Take Biden out of the equation and Clinton leads Sanders by 56-33. Here’s the breakdown on the issues:

— 48 percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle the economy, while 29 percent trust Sanders and 13 percent trust Biden.
— 52 percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle health care, while 26 percent trust Sanders and 12 percent trust Biden.
— 49 percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle race relations, while 26 percent trust Sanders and 11 percent trust Biden.
— 43 percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle climate change, while 29 percent trust Sanders and 11 percent trust Biden.
— 62 percent percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle foreign policy, while 20 percent trust Biden and nine percent trust Sanders.
— 44 percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle gun policy, while 21 percent trust Biden and 20 percent trust Sanders.
— 43 percent of self-described Democrats trust Clinton most to handle income inequality, while 38 percent trust Sanders and 11 percent trust Biden.

Clinton holds large leads over Biden on all of these issues. It has been widely suggested that Biden might be able to draw a contrast with Clinton on foreign policy in particular, since he is in some ways less hawkish than she is. Yet Clinton leads Biden on this issue by 62-20, perhaps undercutting how much that would matter (though I would add that a Biden challenge in this regard would be a very good thing for the quality of the Dem primary debate). Also, the poll finds that a very slight plurality of Dems (49-47) think Biden should stay out.

Major caveat: this is only one poll, and Clinton has been talking about the issues on the campaign trail for many months, and Biden hasn’t. If he were to enter, all these numbers on policy likely would change. Still, they raise at least the possibility that there may not be any clear policy lane for Biden to distinguish himself from Clinton.

It’s also notable that Clinton leads Sanders on the economy and income inequality (though on this one issue he’s much closer to her), given that the core of Sanders’ challenge is that his agenda to combat inequality is significantly more robust than hers, and more in sync with the scale of the structural economic challenges we face. (When it comes to taking on Wall Street, Paul Krugman has argued that Clinton actually has the better case to make than Sanders does.)


 * REPUBLICANS SHOULD ‘SHUT UP’ ABOUT BENGHAZI PROBE: On CBS’s Face the Nation, GOP Rep. Trey Gowdy, who is chairing the House Benghazi probe, had this to say to GOP colleagues who have suggested the probe is about hurting Hillary Clinton:

“I have told my own Republican colleagues and friends, shut up talking about things that you don’t know anything about. And unless you’re on the committee, you have no idea what we have done, why we have done it and what new facts we have found.”

Can you blame him? The candor shown by Republicans who have boasted about the probe’s success in driving down her numbers or declared that its goal is to “go after” Clinton is rather inconvenient.

 * DEMS LAUNCH NEW ATTACK ON BENGHAZI PANEL: Republicans claim Clinton revealed the name of a CIA operative on her unsecured server — proof, they say, that she’d sent classified info on it. But the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings, has now revealed that the CIA informed the panel that the identity of the operative was not classified:

“Unfortunately, the standard operating procedure of this select committee has become to put out information publicly that is inaccurate and out of context in order to attack Secretary Clinton for political reasons,” Mr. Cummings said in a letter to Mr. Gowdy.

Gowdy claims the administration has treated the info as classified, even if the CIA hasn’t. Look for this to come up in Clinton’s high-stakes appearance before the panel on Thursday.

 * PAUL RYAN OPEN TO BECOMING SPEAKER, AFTER ALL: CBS News talks to sources close to Paul Ryan and finds that he is seriously considering running for Speaker after saying he doesn’t want the job:

Ryan’s confidants tell CBS News he will not horse trade with the House Freedom Caucus, a group of 40 or so deeply conservative members who have been demanding changes to House rules and other very specific promises from candidates for Speaker in exchange for their support.

One Ryan confidant says he won’t make any concessions to the House Freedom Caucus: “otherwise you’ve sold yourself to them from the very beginning, and set yourself up for failure.” And remember, the Freedom Fraud Caucus is basically running a scam in which they are demanding the GOP leadership employ tactics they know will fail.

* REPUBLICANS EYE CLEAN DEBT LIMIT HIKE: There had been some talk that Republicans would demand concessions on spending as part of the fiscal talks in exchange for raising the debt ceiling, but CNN reports today:

Fiscal talks between congressional Republicans and the White House have yielded little progress so far, meaning that House and Senate leaders are likely to move a debt ceiling increase separately from a large fiscal package — and prompt a revolt from their party’s right wing.

Of course, we already know how this is going to end. The only question is whether Republicans will waste a whole lot of time pretending the debt limit gives them leverage along the way.

 * WHAT’S WRONG WITH DENMARK, ANYWAY? “We are not Denmark,” Hillary Clinton said to Bernie Sanders. Paul Krugman takes a look at Denmark and concludes that despite high taxes and very generous social programs, it’s still prosperous and good on job creation, though there are some failures. Note this:

“Let me say that it was both a pleasure and a relief to hear people who might become president talk seriously about how we can learn from the experience of other countries, as opposed to just chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!”

Of course, a pointy-headed liberal professor of economics would say that America has a lot to learn from pointy-headed Euro-weenie bureaucrats, wouldn’t he.

* THE TWEET OF THE WEEKEND, TRUMP-AS-TRUTHTELLER EDITION: Donald Trump and Jeb Bush spent the weekend fighting over Trump’s suggestion that he would have prevented the 9/11 attacks, unlike George W. Bush. At one point Trump tweeted:

Jeb, why did your brother attack and destabalize (sic) the Middle East by attacking Iraq when there were no weapons of mass destruction? Bad info?

You’d think that questioning the Iraq invasion might hurt Trump pretty badly among GOP primary voters. Yet some polls have shown that even Republicans are split on it. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays among them.