Hillary Clinton vs. Rand Paul: Is This What 2016 Will Look Like?

 Steve Pope/Getty Images

Steve Pope/Getty Images

Flash forward to 2016 and the presidential elections. President Barack Obama is getting ready to leave office, likely to the relief of many on both sides of the aisle, but his replacement is a question that has candidates sharpening their debate claws and kissing babies at inhuman speeds. Our crystal ball gets a little bit foggy here as the certainty factor drops, (making the future particles that power the ball’s clairvoyance generator a little less stable) because we can’t know quite yet who will chose to run. Many candidates have given positive signs, from visiting Iowa on political business for some face time, to dropping hints in interviews, but ultimately there have been no guarantees as of yet.

However there are two candidates that have shown strong signs that they may run: former-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.). Clinton has been a strong favorite for the Democratic party, hands down the easy choice for the left assuming she doesn’t chose to stay out of the race. Paul on the other hand is hardly the obvious answer for the GOP, but he does have a support system and he might appeal to moderates in ways that more right wing Republicans would not.

This week, Paul got in a few punches prior to either potential candidate climbing into the real political boxing ring, making fun of Clinton’s recent comments on job creation. “Don’t let anybody tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” she said, clumsily attempting to make a point about giving tax breaks to corporations that create jobs in other countries, rather than ones that employ American citizens. Basically she was re-emphasizing the Democratic stance on the minimum wage and middle class over big business and supporting the wealthy in hopes of indirectly helping those in poverty. However, Hillary didn’t chose her words terribly carefully, and Paul has certainly taken advantage, turning it into a convenient tag-line for Senate contenders, saying “Hillary Clinton comes up and she says, ‘Businesses don’t create jobs.’ Anybody here think businesses don’t create jobs? I’m here today to endorse Pat Roberts (R-Kans.) and Sam Brownback, because you know what? They know that businesses do create jobs, and I hope you know that too,” according to CBS.

The rhetoric sparks the imagination and seems to call to mind a stage and some podiums for a presidential debate, and more than anything, it really draws attention to what Paul and Clinton might look like standing side-by-side. Comparing and contrasting the two may be a little premature, but on the other hand each has a significant chance of being in just that position in under two years.

Polling comparison

When one considers the approval polls from nearly any source, Clinton has a clear advantage over Paul, but that can be said of most candidates at this point, and will likely change closer to election time. However in July Clinton was by far the best liked candidate out of 16, including Paul. According to Gallup, Clinton had a very high 91% poll as familiar with her, and 55% saw her favorably. Paul on the other hand had a 55% familiarity rating and 31% favorability. Since July these numbers have likely changed, especially given GOP criticism of Clinton over Benghazi. Pew Research reports that both have been getting a great deal of media attention, with Clinton mentioned 82 times between January and September 2014, and Paul mentioned 67 times — impressive given he has a great deal more competition from other Republicans.

Find the Best, a political comparison group generated the following graph to demonstrate their individual polling numbers, which showed Rand Paul doing considerably worse.

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Stance on major topics

Both tend to fall within party lines on major social issues, with Clinton in favor of women’s right to an abortion, enforcing employment of women and minorities, and same-sex marriage, and Paul opposing on all three issues. On gun rights, Paul is far more strongly in favor than Clinton, and Obamacare barely merits mentioning — Clinton is in favor, and Paul opposes. Internationally they are actually not as far off on policy, both in favor of remaining out of Iran, and both would likely present strong stances against ISIL, at least as the issue currently stands — though in a debate Paul would probably have some material to attack Clinton on over the Middle East.

Overall, Hillary may have better polling results, but Paul has other advantages. For one thing, frustration with the current Democratic president could hurt Clinton — though in general Democrats tend to do well with presidential elections. Paul is also considerably younger than Clinton, which might spell less experience for some, but for others would be an advantage as age and health have been listed as concerns. Ultimately the playing field won’t be easily evaluated in total until election season rolls around and the players have been announced.

Follow Anthea Mitchell on Twitter @AntheaWSCS

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