USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll: What do Democrats want in 2020? Someone new - and Biden. But definitely not Hillary

  • In Politics
  • 2018-12-26 16:41:53Z

WASHINGTON - Democratic and independent voters are crystal clear about the candidate they'd be most excited to see in the 2020 presidential field: Someone entirely new. Oh, and also the most seasoned prospect.

Asking voters their pick for president more than a year before the primaries begin typically doesn't tell you much beyond name recognition. Instead of asking about support, a USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll tested which candidates now seem intriguing to voters, and who turns them off, in an effort to get clues about the dynamic ahead.

Landing at the top of the list of 11 options was "someone entirely new" - perhaps a prospect not on the political radar screen yet. Nearly six in 10 of those surveyed - 59 percent - said they would be "excited" about a candidate like that; only 11 percent said they'd prefer that a new face not run.

That said, close behind was Joe Biden, the opposite of someone entirely new. Biden, now 76, was a veteran senator from Delaware before he served two terms as President Barack Obama's vice president. He's weighing whether to make his third bid for the Democratic nomination; 53 percent said they would be excited about that, while 24 percent urged him not to run.

"He has the common touch," said Thomas Maslany, 72, a Democratic retiree from Perkiomenville, Pennsylvania, who worked for the Environmental Protection Agency. He thought Democrats might need to nominate an older white male to defeat President Trump for re-election, although he agreed the party needs to move to a new generation of leaders. "The world's changing so fast."

Catherine O'Connor, 63, an artist and a political independent from Lockport, New York, had an idea how to reconcile those conflicting impulses: nominate Biden for president and choose someone like California Sen. Kamala Harris or Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke as his running mate.

While she mentioned O'Rourke, she also worried that the three-term House member, who lost his bid for the Senate last month, and other newcomers, lack enough experience for the Oval Office.

The poll of 689 Democrats and independents, taken by landline and cellphone Dec. 11-16, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

"The 'someone new' versus Joe Biden finding illustrates the generational divide within the Democratic Party dating back to Walter Mondale versus Gary Hart in 1984," said David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk Political Research Center. Mondale won the nomination only to lose to the incumbent Republican president, Ronald Reagan. "The test is which candidate can build on their core 'excitement' and not lose the voters of other Democrats who fall by the wayside."

Voters were open to the idea of considering someone new to challenge Trump, who announced his campaign for re-election on the day he was inaugurated for his first term. Four newcomers to national politics scored net positive reactions to potential candidacies.

Thirty percent said they would be excited about O'Rourke, 46, running; just 13 percent said he shouldn't, a net positive of 17 percentage points. He also had room to grow: More than a third of those surveyed, 35 percent, said they had never heard of him.

Also in positive territory was Harris: 29 percent said they would be excited if the 54-year-old California senator ran; 19 percent said she shouldn't. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, 49, was seen as "exciting" by 28 percent; 19 percent thought he shouldn't run.

Nearly one in three, 29 percent, had never heard of Booker, while 34 percent didn't know Harris.

More than half, 54 percent, had never heard of Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar. Of those who knew the 58-year-old senator, there was a close divide: 15 percent said they would be excited by her candidacy; 13 percent thought she shouldn't try it.

More: Win while losing? Beto O'Rourke, Stacey Abrams, Andrew Gillum may still be rising voices

More: Ahead of 2020 election, liberals quiz Booker, Gillibrand, Harris, Sanders and Warren

Some better-known candidates were more controversial. Asked about Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, 27 percent were excited about the 69-year-old's possible candidacy but 33 percent were against idea, a net negative of six points. And former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg was an "exciting" possibility for 20 percent, but 32 percent urged the 76-year-old not to try, a net negative of 12 points. He re-registered as a Democrat in October for the first time since leaving the party in 2001.

Voters weren't exactly doting on the presidential contenders who ran in 2016.

For Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77, 36 percent would be excited if he tried again. but even more, 41 percent, thought he shouldn't run. Just about everybody knew his name: Only 3 percent didn't know who he was.

"I really like the way he talks," Juan Arreola, 25, who works in retail in Berwyn, Illinois, said of Sanders. He was particularly drawn to the senator's proposal to make tuition free at public colleges and universities.

"Three years ago, Bernie (Sanders) was my favorite," said Arlanna Spencer, 43, a stay-at-home mother and a Democrat from Flagler Beach, Florida, who was also among those surveyed. "Now, I am not sure. I would like to see some fresh faces."

Hillary Clinton, 71, won the popular vote against Trump two years ago, but lost the Electoral College. She had the steepest climb of all: 15 percent would be excited if she ran again - a number swamped by the 70 percent who said she shouldn't. Asked recently if she wants to run again, Clinton said "no" but then added, "Well, I'd like to be president."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: USA TODAY/Suffolk Poll: What do Democrats want in 2020? Someone new - and Biden. But definitely not Hillary


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