Nate Silver: Hillary Is the Strongest Non-Incumbent Ever

The New York Times polling analyst predicted Clinton will need to get the game by early 2015 if she wants to win the Democratic primary, even with her unusual advantages.

The 2016 presidential contest seems, thankfully, a long way off. But in reality, running for the presidency is a two-year process, and we're going to start seeing candidates forming their formal presidential exploratory committees just a year and a half from now. Many will announce in early 2015, and some may even launch their bids in the waning days of 2014, if past precedent is any guide.

On the Democratic side, the big question is what does Hillary Clinton do. She is, New York Times polling analyst Nate Silver said last night at the Aspen Ideas Festival, in an extremely strong position as a primary candidate -- and that means she can get away with waiting to declare longer than some others. But if she waits too long to say she'll run, she won't be able to clear the field of competitors. And if she waits too long to say she won't run, she could potentially hurt the prospects of whoever the future Democratic nominee is, since less experienced and well-connected candidates will need more time to polish their performances on the stump and raise money and build a national campaign.

"From the standpoint of the party primary, it's almost as though she's an incumbent president, right, where she even trumps, kind of, the VP, who very often wins nomination after a president is term-limited," said Silver, who was interviewed by Katie Couric in an evening session. "If you look at polls, you know, 60 to 70 percent of Democrats say they prefer Hillary to be the nominee. There's no kind of non-incumbent in history with those types of numbers."

"She's has decide at some point or it's going to disadvantage other Democrats who would want to run."

Presented by

Garance Franke-Ruta is a former senior editor covering national politics at The Atlantic.

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