May 2 (Bloomberg) -- The 2016 Democratic presidential nomination is Hillary Clinton’s if she wants it, according to a poll released today in which Vice President Joe Biden is the party’s frontrunner if she doesn’t.
The Quinnipiac University survey showed 65 percent of Democratic voters backing Clinton as their party’s nominee, with Biden second at 13 percent. Other frequently mentioned prospects had support in the low single digits in the April 25-29 poll: 4 percent for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and 1 percent or less for Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Virginia Senator Mark Warner.
Clinton, 65, “has a rock-solid hold on the hearts of Democratic voters at this point,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac polling institute in Hamden, Connecticut.
A former secretary of state, senator from New York and first lady, Clinton hasn’t commented on any future political plans since she stepped down from her diplomatic post early this year. Supporters, though, have formed a super-political action committee to work for her if she seeks the White House.
She could also get help from Emily’s List, an advocacy group that supports Democratic women candidates who back abortion rights.
“If she decides to take this on, she’s in an incredible position,” Emily’s List President Stephanie Schriock told reporters this morning in announcing an effort to elect Clinton or another woman as president in 2016.
To accomplish its goal Emily’s List plans to enlist its 2 million supporters, as well as use online advertising and conduct town-hall meetings in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, Nevada and New Hampshire. Another tool will be online chats, such as one later today with followers of a website geared toward women that was co-founded by actress Zooey Deschanel.
If Clinton, whose husband, Bill, served as president from 1993 to 2001, decides to skip the race, the Quinnipiac poll showed 45 percent would support Biden, 70, as the Democratic nominee. Cuomo’s backing would rise to 15 percent, with 6 percent for Patrick, 3 percent for O’Malley and 2 percent for Warner.
“There is a long way to go until 2016, but none of the other younger potential candidates for the Democratic nomination currently has anything approaching widespread support from party voters,” Brown said.
Cuomo is 55 years old, Patrick 56, O’Malley 50, and Warner 58.
Clinton would be the first woman to head a major political party’s national ticket. Democratic Representative Geraldine Ferraro of New York in 1984 and Republican Governor Sarah Palin of Alaska in 2008 ran as their parties’ vice-presidential nominees. Clinton lost the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination to Obama.
A Feb. 27-March 4 Quinnipiac poll showed Clinton leading three potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan, who ran for vice president last year on a ticket led by Mitt Romney.
In the latest poll, taken after the April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon that killed three people and wounded more than 250 others, 58 percent of all registered voters supported trying terrorism suspects in a military court rather than in civilian courts.
Also, 59 percent favored the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev if he is convicted of carrying out the attack. His brother, Tamerlan, the other suspect in the bombings, was killed in a shootout with law officers.
The survey showed 71 percent of registered voters said they were “dissatisfied” or “angry” at the Senate’s rejection April 17 of legislation to require those buying firearms at gun shows or online to undergo the same background checks as those purchasing weapons from licensed dealers. The measure fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance in the chamber.
Previous Quinnipiac surveys have shown more than 90 percent of U.S. voters backing the expanded background checks in the wake of the December shooting deaths of 20 students and six adults at a Newtown, Connecticut, elementary school.
The most recent poll showed a decline in support for providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a key element in a proposed rewrite of U.S. immigration policy being pushed by a bipartisan group of senators. Backing for the citizenship provision declined to 52 percent from 59 percent in a Quinnipiac survey released in early April.
The current survey of 1,471 registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. The subset of 650 Democratic voters or those who leaned Democratic had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jonathan D. Salant in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org