Discuss as:

First Thoughts: Hillary's 2016 numbers come back down to Earth

Hillary’s ’16 numbers come back down to earth, even though she leads both Jeb Bush and Rand Paul… Yet Biden trails against both Republicans… This week’s 2016 round-up… Obama talks student loans at 10:20 am ET… America’s political realignment is now complete… Pryor’s up with his first TV ad… Demographics and affirmative action… Romney’s back in the news… And Rogers, Schumer to appear on “Meet."

Jonathan Ernst / Reuters

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton makes remarks after being honored with a Distinguished Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council in Washington, May 1, 2013.

*** Hillary’s 2016 numbers come back down to Earth: Yes, it’s early to discuss 2016. Yes, everything right now is speculation. And, yes, so much can happen in the next two or three years. But it’s Friday, and we have a new 2016 poll to chew on. According to a new Quinnipiac survey, Hillary Clinton still looks strong against potential GOP competitors, but her numbers -- not surprisingly -- have come back down to earth. She leads both Jeb Bush (48%-40%) and Rand Paul (49%-41%) by eight points. Yet back in a March Quinnipiac survey, she was ahead of Marco Rubio by 16 points (50%-34%) and Paul Ryan by 12 (50%-38%), though her edge against the popular Chris Christie was smaller (45%-37%). There are two explanations for this. First, Republicans have started coming back home. While 11% of Republicans backed her in the March match up against Rubio, just 8% of GOPers support her in this new survey against Jeb Bush (though that’s a very small change). Second, she’s now essentially splitting the indie vote when she was leading back in March. Nevertheless, here is why Clinton remains so formidable: She’s running ahead of both Bush and Paul among women by 20-plus points, and she trails among men in the single digits. If she runs and if that gender gaps persists, she’d be VERY DIFFICULT to beat. The Quinnipiac poll also shows that Clinton’s fav/unfav has dropped to 52%-40%, although last week’s Washington Post/ABC poll had her approval rating at 62%.

*** Biden trails both Bush and Ryan: Meanwhile, the same May Quinnipiac poll finds Vice President Biden trailing both Bush (38%-44%) and Paul (39%-43%). Yet back in March, the vice president was ahead of Rubio (45%-38%) and Ryan (45%-42%), though he trailed Christie (40%-43%). Perhaps the best way to view Biden is as a generic Democratic candidate (i.e., someone who ISN’T Hillary Clinton). And at least according to this Quinnipiac poll, Democrats were in a stronger position in March than they are now.

*** This week’s 2016 round-up: Hillary Clinton marched in a Memorial Day Parade with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo…  New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was playing arcade games with President Obama again…. Ted Cruz went to New York, where he helped the state GOP raise about $750,000. He said of the Republican Party’s problems: “I am going to suggest that the last election can be explained in two words: 47 percent. … "I think Republicans are, and should be, the party of the 47%."… Jeb Bush isn’t taking his mother’s advice that the U.S. has had “enough Bushes.” He said in Michigan: "What can I tell you? All I can say is we all have mothers, right? She is totally liberated, and God bless her." As for running for president, he said he’d start thinking about it in about a year. … Rand Paul does not agree with aiding Syrian rebels. … Marco Rubio says repealing ObamaCare is the way to fix the IRS. And immigration advocates are worried that Rubio’s comments noting that the bill needs to change could weaken it… Ann Romney said she’s “very, very partial to Paul Ryan” for 2016… And Martin O’Malley spoke at CAP. He didn’t mention 2016, but he did tout Maryland’s progressive policies as mainstream.

*** Obama talks student loans: At 10:20 am ET at the White House, President Obama delivers remarks on student-loan legislation. Per the White House, he “will call on Congress to help keep college affordable for middle-class families and students by preventing student loan interest rates from doubling on July 1.” A little background on this, per USA Today: The student loan bill House Republicans recently passed would fluctuate with the markets, something they say was proposed by Obama in the State of the Union. But Obama wants loans fixed from when someone takes out a loan for the life of it, like a fixed mortgage. Republicans want to have the loan rate re-evaluated every year based on the market rate. Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee says it’s running ads in college papers (print and online) accusing Republicans of voting for legislation that raises interest rates.

*** America’s political realignment is now complete: To understand how much American politics has changed since the 1960s -- heck, since the 1990s -- here’s something to consider: After the 2014 midterms, it’s possible that, for the first time, all of New England’s governors could be Democrats. And it’s equally possible that, for the first time, all of the states of the former Confederacy could have Republican governors. (Hat tip to Harry Enten who first pointed this scenario out to us after Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee switched to the Democratic Party.) Of course, a Republican could win in Massachusetts’ open gubernatorial race next year, or Gov. Paul LePage (R) could win re-election in Maine. And Terry McAuliffe (D) could win this year in Virginia, Democrats could hold on in Arkansas, or a Charlie Crist (D) could win Florida’s governor’s mansion. But outside of those potential exceptions, it’s inescapable that a full party realignment -- now on the governor side -- has taken place after the Civil Rights Act, Nixon’s Southern Strategy, and Barack Obama’s election and re-election. Once dominated by Republicans, New England has now become a Democratic stronghold. And once dominated by Democrats, the South is almost completely controlled by Republicans.

*** Pryor up with first TV ad -- “No one from New York or Washington tells me what to do”: The realignment also could play out in next year’s Senate contests. Per NBC’s Kasie Hunt, endangered Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor of Arkansas has started airing TV ads defending himself against attacks from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's gun-control group. It's his first ad of the 2014 cycle, and begins airing today (18 months before Election Day!!!) "The mayor of New York City is running ads against me because I opposed President Obama's gun-control legislation. Nothing in the Obama plan would have prevented tragedies like Newtown, Aurora, Tucson or even Jonesboro," Pryor says in an ad straight to the camera. "I'm Mark Pryor, I approved this message because no one from New York or Washington tells me what to do. I listen to Arkansas.”

*** Demographics and affirmative action: With the Supreme Court set to rule on an affirmative-action case later this month, National Journal’s Ron Brownstein points out that the country’s changing demographics have altered the debate over affirmative action. “When the Supreme Court decided Bakke [in 1978], whites still made up 80 percent of America's population, including almost three-fourths of those under 18. But minorities now constitute more than 36 percent of the total population and are on track to become a majority of the youth population before 2020.” More: “Federal figures show that nonwhites comprised 47 percent of the 2011 class entering higher education, up from one-third in 1996. The problem is that those overall numbers mask the emergence of what Anthony Carnevale and Jeff Strohl of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce have called a ‘de facto dual system’ of higher education in which minorities and low-income kids are funneling mostly into the least selective (and rewarding) schools.”

*** Romney’s back in the news: In advance of the $5,000 per-couple retreat he’s hosting in Utah next week, Mitt Romney gave an interview to the Wall Street Journal, in which he talked about the public/political role he wants to play, criticized President Obama, and expressed regrets about the ’12 campaign. Romney “is considering writing a book and a series of opinion pieces, and has plans to campaign for 2014 candidates. But he is wary of overdoing it. ‘I'm not going to be bothering the airwaves with a constant series of speeches.’” More: “‘The extraordinary disappointment of the president's second term is where the opportunity was greatest, he has proposed the least,’ he said. ‘He continues to campaign as if there is another election, and there isn't.’” And Romney said “that the GOP needs ‘to translate our message in a way that minorities understand,’ and that he wished his campaign had poured more money into ads targeting Hispanic voters.”

*** Rogers, Schumer to appear on “Meet”: On “Meet the Press” this Sunday, NBC’s David Gregory interviews Rep. Mike Rogers and Sen. Chuck Schumer.

Click here to sign up for First Read emails.
Text FIRST to 622639, to sign up for First Read alerts to your mobile phone.
Check us out on Facebook and also on Twitter. Follow us @chucktodd, @mmurraypolitics, @DomenicoNBC, @brookebrower