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Here Are The 55 People That Pollsters Have Included In 2016 Polls (So Far)

Jason Linkins   |   September 3, 2014    5:34 PM ET

We've gone back over all of the 2016 presidential polls that have been conducted so far and discovered that as of this moment, pollsters have already included 55 people in various and sundry polls, for some reason.

Who are these people?

People Who Can Reasonably Be Said To Be 2016 Presidential Contenders:
1. Joe Biden
2. Jeb Bush
3. Chris Christie
4. Hillary Clinton
5. Bobby Jindal
6. John Kasich
7. Martin O'Malley
8. Rand Paul
9. Marco Rubio
10. Paul Ryan
11. Scott Walker

People Who Are Maybe A Tiny Bit Of A Stretch To Think Of As Running In 2016, But Who Knows?:
12. Ted Cruz
13. Andrew Cuomo
14. Peter King
15. Rob Portman
16. Bernie Sanders
17. Rick Santorum
18. Brian Schweitzer

Time Is A Flat Circle Where These People Are Always Running For President:
19. Michele Bachmann
20. Herman Cain
21. Howard Dean
22. Mike Huckabee
23. Jon Huntsman
24. John Kerry
25. Tim Pawlenty
26. Rick Perry
27. Mitt Romney

These People Are Not Running For President, But We'll Show Them By Putting Them In Polls, Anyway:
28. Cory Booker
29. Julian Castro
30. Kirsten Gillibrand
31. Deval Patrick
32. Elizabeth Warren

Pollsters Remember These People's Names Because They Did A Thing That One Time, Remember That Thing They Did?:
33. Kelly Ayotte
34. Tammy Baldwin
35. Evan Bayh
36. John Bolton
37. Jan Brewer
38. Ben Carson
39. Mitch Daniels
40. Rahm Emanuel
41. Nikki Haley
42. John Hickenlooper
43. Amy Klobuchar
44. Susana Martinez
45. Condoleezza Rice
46. Michael Steele
47. John Thune
48. Antonio Villaraigosa
49. Mark Warner
50. Jim Webb

LOL, Pollsters Are Straight Up Trolling You:
51. Scott Brown
52. Bob McDonnell
53. Sarah Palin
54. Joe Scarborough
55. Donald Trump

Most of these people, if history and common sense are any guide, will not come remotely close to running for president, let alone being elected. By our count, in 2008 -- the last presidential election without an incumbent -- 55 politicians were also mentioned in at least one poll. Of those, just under half ended up even briefly becoming candidates, while fewer than a third made it to the Iowa caucuses.

That list includes some less-than-serious options, from Bill Clinton (who was term-limited) to Arnold Schwarzenegger (who was born in Austria) and Stephen Colbert (who already had a better job). This serves as a reminder of the futility of trying to predict the winners of a contest before knowing who the contestants actually are.

FUN FACT: If you stacked all of these people end to end, the middle class would still have no future in America.

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Media People: Polls Say It's Throwback Thursday To That Time Romney Ran For President

Jason Linkins   |   August 28, 2014    3:37 PM ET

A few days ago, former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential aspirant Mitt Romney told Hugh Hewitt that he was not going to run for president in 2016. What everyone seems to have heard, however, is that he might run for president in 2016. And so, Mitt Romney 2016 is now a thing. It's August. This is what happens in August.

The words that everyone is citing to suggest that Romney is "leaving the door open," as they say, to a run, are "circumstances can change." Go ahead and Google "Mitt Romney circumstances can change" and you'll see what I mean. (The Huffington Post is quoting those words, too, though we are at least really clear about Romney's stated intentions.) It's worth taking a look at the relevant transcript (emphasis mine):

HEWITT: Now I'm pressing, and I'm pressing an advantage of long acquaintance, and so forgive me for this, but that's subject to change, right? People's candidacies implode, circumstances change. People who organized campaigns approach you. And so I'm not asking you to -- I wouldn't presume to ask you to say, "Yeah, I'm in the race." But circumstances change. And if you thought that in fact it were not that way, that you thought you were the only one who could do this, you'd change your mind, wouldn't you?

ROMNEY: I'm not going there, Hugh. I know you're going to press, but you know, this is something we gave a lot of thought to when, early on, I decided we're not going to be running this time. And again, we said, "Look, I had the chance of running. I didn't win. Someone else has a better chance than I do." And that's what we believe, and that's why I'm not running. And you know, circumstances can change, but I'm just not going to let my head go there. I remember that great line from "Dumb and Dumber," where the...

HEWITT: "So you're telling me I have a chance?"

ROMNEY: There you go, you remember. You're telling me I have a chance? That's one of a million.

So all those headline writers probably should have attributed the "circumstances change" language to Hugh Hewitt, with whom Romney was politely playing along.

Or they could have gone with, "Romney: 'If Everyone Else's Candidacies Implode And A Well-Organized Campaign Comes To Me, Maybe I'll Run,'" as an alternative. Because those are the conditions to which Romney is agreeing here: Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and whoever else suffers an "implosion," and then a bunch of people who are well-positioned to support a campaign -- financially and infrastructurally -- but who have not joined a campaign in the meantime suddenly decide to approach Romney.

I mean, it could happen. Giraffes from space could cure leukemia. The Detroit Lions could go to the Superbowl. Tupac could be alive. The world is full of possibilities. But likelihoods are more scant, by comparison. This is really just Romney funnin' around with Hewitt, who -- back when it was chic in establishment conservative circles to beg any Republican with a pulse to jump into the 2012 GOP primary and prevent Romney from winning it -- stuck by Romney. (He is, after all, Romney's biographer.)

But, remember, it's August! And someone -- specifically, USA Today/Suffolk University -- polled Iowans, and this is what they found:

According to a USA Today/Suffolk University poll released Wednesday, 35 percent of likely GOP caucus voters would vote for the 2012 GOP nominee in 2016. When Romney's name was added to the pool, no other candidate received double-digit votes.

The survey comes as rumors have begun to swirl about a potential Romney bid for president in 2016. After months of insisting that he will not run again, the former Massachusetts governor on Tuesday acknowledged that "circumstances can change."

(In the second paragraph, a copyeditor should have changed "The survey comes as rumors have begun to swirl about a potential Romney bid for president in 2016" to "The survey comes at a time when we're desperate to find something to write about, got any ideas?")

Back in January, Ariel Edwards-Levy and I came up with a system of shorthand symbols that could be deployed for polls conducted well before anyone has any business conducting polls. In our system, this USA Today/Suffolk University poll would get the "ℑ" for "It's way too early to write about 2016, but here we are doing it anyway, like idiots" and the "Ñ" for "No, [name of candidate] is not running/cannot run/will not run, but what if [name of candidate] did/could/would run? Huh?! What then!?” We created a symbol for polls in which Public Policy Polling is just trolling people, as is their wont, but since PPP isn't implicated here we wouldn't do that. Same spirit, though!

Ariel and I failed to come up with a symbol for "absurdly teensy sample size," because we didn't think a poll with an absurdly teensy sample size would touch off a cuckoo-bird media frenzy. We forgot about what happens in August, and we apologize. More to the point, though, this poll has an absurdly teensy sample size! "How many Iowans actually support Romney for 2016?" asks Dave Weigel, "One hundred seventy Republicans were polled, and 60 chose Romney."

Why would 60 people do this? Well, if you recall, a bunch of Republican voters in Iowa voted for Mitt Romney not so long ago. That was a discrete, concrete decision that they made. If Romney had said to Hugh Hewitt, "YOLO, cuz, I am gonna go for it one more time in '16," it's very possible that Romney would bring many of them along again. In the meantime, however, we have Republican voters who, when presented with a hypothetical question about an imagined set of circumstances that won't take place for another year, retreat to the least abstract position: a decision they already made before about which they are probably still quite happy.

This would be a good time to point out that one thing Mitt Romney has never actually done, technically speaking, is win an Iowa Caucus.

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Relax Everybody, Nobody Is A '2016 Frontrunner' Yet

Jason Linkins   |   March 3, 2014    2:51 PM ET

I don't know if it was the anticipation of being snowed in today, or the zany highs of award season reaching their peak with last night's Academy Awards ceremony, but this past weekend was a looney-tune time for Washington's professional 2016 Speculasturbators. Did you know that we already have "frontrunners" for 2016? As in more than one? Ninnyhammers, away!

Hey, I just double-checked, but it's apparently only March in the year 2014, so everyone can feel free to just chill, for God's sake.

Look, y'all. I ain't even trying to put the kibosh on discussing the relative strengths and weaknesses of potential 2016 candidates. I'm even OK with making comparisons. But we have to stop abusing this poor word, "frontrunner," before the English-language's version of Sarah MacLachlan starts making sad teevee commercials about it. There is no "frontrunner" at this point. There isn't even a race.

But once the race is enjoined, we'll still really need some new rules governing the use of this word. As things are, we deploy the word "frontrunner" way too readily, using it to describe everybody from candidates who are clearly dominating a race, to candidates who have snagged a slight lead over a pack of contenders, to -- as in the above cases -- candidates who aren't even candidates. It's important to remember that when Chris Cillizza or Conn Carroll declare a frontrunner, they've not taken the pulse of America or done anything quantitative to make that determination. They approach it with this kind of thinking: "Which prospective candidate, if I named them the 'frontrunner,' would give my personal #brandz #moar #klout and #zazz."

But look, I'm trimming my own excesses and taking responsibility for my own abuses, as well. Back in the 2012 GOP primary, as the fortunes of the various candidates waxed and waned over the months, I passed around the term "frontrunner" a little too promiscuously. So, now, I'm taking up the cause of HuffPost Pollster's own Mark Blumenthal, who wants this term to be used more realistically, so we stop hurting this poor word "frontrunner" so much! Here are some rules, from Mark Blumenthal:

1. "First, to be a frontrunner you need to at least have a real lead, which means statistical significance in some form. But again that’s the easy part."

2. "Second, we really need a different term to distinguish the true, dominant, likely-to-win frontrunner from a candidate that enjoys an early lead that’s quite possibly temporary."

My advice is to consider using terms like "ahead of the pack" or "so hot right now" or "I get sprung when I think of [NAME OF CANDIDATE]," and let the truly dominant candidates take "frontrunner." Because, honey, you do not want to have headlines like, "Newt Gingrich, frontrunner" on your permanent record. Oof.

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And Now Joe Scarborough Would Like Some Attention From The 2016 Speculation Mongers

Jason Linkins   |   February 13, 2014   12:21 PM ET

Back in 2010, MSNBC presenter and "Morning Joe" host Joe Scarborough told his television colleagues that he was "irritated" at a Huffington Post story that suggested he might undertake a 2012 campaign as the bottom part of a Mike Bloomberg presidential ticket. (This would have been on the ballot line of the "Polite Centrists For Unregulated Derivatives Trading And Gutting The New Deal Party" or something.) Per Scarborough:

"There is nothing to this. They say somebody very close to they mayor says I want to be vice president. That's a joke. Nobody that has worked with me who is a lawyer, nobody that's worked with me in media, nobody that's worked with me in Congress would ever say, 'You know who I think would make a great vice president? Joe Scarborough.' Seriously? Seriously? ... I could not have been more unequivocal."

Flash forward to today, and things are getting a little more ambitious and a little less unequivocal. Per Politico:

Asked by radio host Hugh Hewitt if he had ruled out running for president, Scarborough said he "won't rule anything out" and later added, "we'll see what happens."

"No, I won't rule anything out. I've always said and I've always been open about the fact that the greatest job I ever had and the greatest honor I've ever had was being in the House of Representatives," the former Florida congressman said. "It was an absolute thrill and I had to get out because I had young children to raise and I wanted to be back home in Pensacola. No, I've always said I wanted to get back in. It's just a matter of time. We'll see what happens."

Here's what's going to happen: Joe Scarborough will not run for president, the end. Sure, there may have been a time when Scarborough could be tempted into doing all the work needed to set up a presidential campaign, but he's been moving in an entirely different career direction for years -- away from electoral politics and toward Thought Leadership.

Which is in many ways too bad. Americans have a lot of means at their disposal to shoot down someone's presidential ambitions, but Thought Leaders are like black mold -- we'll be stuck with them until we burn the whole house down.

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Everything Hillary Clinton Does Fuels 2016 Speculation, Apparently

Jason Linkins   |   February 6, 2014   12:08 PM ET

The year is young, but it's going to be a tough competition to write a dumber sentence that includes the word "speculation" and the number "2016," than this one from the New York Post's Emily Smith:

Hillary Clinton went on a private shopping spree at Bergdorf Goodman early Tuesday morning, sparking further speculation that she’s suiting up for a 2016 presidential run.

I mean, to my mind, it fuels speculation that Clinton wanted to buy some clothes, but I guess Smith really liked the look of that off-the-rack pun.

The most disappointing thing about this article is that "Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines didn’t respond [for comment]," because Reines popping off at reporters is at least marginally entertaining.

At any rate, at some point Hillary Clinton might get some food, almost as if she wanted to synthesize the energy necessary to go on living until 2016 or something.

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Insanely Early 2016 Speculation (Hillary Clinton Edition)

Chris Weigant   |   February 5, 2014    7:47 PM ET

Yes, it is insanely early to be speculating about 2016. This, however, is not going to stop me from doing so. In fact, I am somewhat late to this particular party, since we've all been seeing a spate of stories about Hillary Clinton in the punditocracy for the past month or so. So, yes, this is going to be another of those pieces. If this doesn't interest you, then I strongly advise you stop reading right now and choose some more productive use of your time.

For the rest of us wonks, I have to point out that I've already written about the 2016 election previously, looking at Chris Christie (pre-bridge scandal) way back in November, and more recently laying out what a large Electoral College advantage just about any Democrat is going to enjoy in 2016.

Other than the Electoral College shift, another rather strange dynamic seems to be shaping up between the two dominant American political parties. Democrats and Republicans are reversing their traditional scenarios when it comes to nominating presidential candidates. This tradition even comes with its own bumper sticker slogan to define it: "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line." Democrats, in other words, have a large field to pick from and select the one that everybody likes best, in the end, and then everyone enthusiastically gets behind them for the general election. Republicans, however, pretty much know who is "next in line" for the nomination, and while other candidates may put up a limited fight, everyone knows who the nominee is going to be long before the first primary happens -- after which Republicans all fall into line behind him, like him or not. But this time around the primary field is going to be wild and wooly over on the Republican side, with nobody being able to convincingly claim to be "next in line" (Rick Santorum or Paul Ryan could come closest to making such a claim, but this is going to be challenged by many others). But over on the Democratic side, there is only one woman standing, at least at this point, and her name is Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Clinton has a great argument for 2016 being "her turn." She is, without a doubt, "next in line" in the Democratic Party. After the closely fought 2008 primary season, Hillary brought the party together behind Barack Obama and later accepted a position in his cabinet. She's definitely paid her dues, party-wise. And she's already shown the ability both to raise money and to get millions of people to vote for her. There is nobody else in the Democratic Party with an equivalent claim -- the only one with even a hope of making such a claim is Joe Biden, in fact. But his claim is a fairly weak one.

This was just reflected in a Washington Post poll, which showed Hillary beating all other Democratic contenders by a wider margin than has ever been seen in such early polling. Hillary was at 73-percent support among Democratic voters. Biden was far, far behind in second place, with only a paltry 12 percent. Leading the field by a whopping 61 points is one of the reasons that Hillary's name has been in the news of late. The other reason is that there is a shadow "Draft Hillary" campaign organization that is growing and putting out press releases touting Hillary's so-far-nonexistent campaign as being all but inevitable.

Astute watchers of the political scene will note, however, that this is precisely the same argument Hillary was making roughly seven or eight years ago. Hillary was going to be the inevitable candidate for 2008, remember? This got so prevalent that people even started talking about a "coronation" rather than a primary season.

Hillary Clinton, quite obviously, remembers all this. Should she run, she will no doubt be on guard against the "inevitable" label. She will present herself as "not taking anyone's vote for granted," and "fighting hard for every vote." She will also, no doubt, not hire the same campaign consultants who told her to just clear the field on Super Tuesday and then not worry about anything after that, because by then she'd be a shoo-in. Hillary knows full well that mistakes were made the last time around, and she will be doing everything she can not to repeat them.

Of course, eight years ago few people knew the name "Barack Hussein Obama." Just because Hillary looks inevitable this far out doesn't mean she actually will be when the voting starts. There could be some charismatic up-and-comer lurking within the Democratic Party who will explode onto the political scene and sweep everyone off their feet. It is, after all, insanely early to even be talking about 2016.

My guess, however, is that this time around "Hillary is inevitable" is going to prove correct -- if she runs. I think that there will be a number of Democrats challenging Hillary in the primaries, but that they all will essentially be running to become Hillary's vice president. A number of young candidates (young enough to wait their turn for the big race until 2024, that is) will politely make their own case, without beating up on Hillary too viciously. There may be a challenge from the left, but Hillary can defuse any such candidate by shaping her own positions in a more populist manner than her husband (and Barack Obama, for that matter) did.

Hillary, if she runs, is going to be as exciting a candidate as Obama was. If elected, she would be the first woman to hold the office, of course, which is historic. She would also be the first first lady to ever rise to the job as well. Women voters will be exuberant about seeing Hillary elected. The only way Republicans could even hope to counter this would be if they nominated a female candidate as well, but at this point that seems somewhat of a long shot.

There's one question that needs a bit more attention, though: will Hillary actually run? Most people make the assumption that this is a foregone conclusion, but I'm not entirely convinced. She sure does have the "fire in the belly" to run; she's already proven that. She wants the job. She really, really wants the job, in fact. She is convinced of her ability to do the job, she thinks she'd do a good job, and she thinks she'd be the best person for the job. None of that is in question. Most Democrats would agree with at least two out of those three. But will she still be able to do the job?

Hillary Clinton, if elected, would be the second-oldest president in American history. Ronald Reagan was less than a month from being 70 years old when he was first sworn into office, in 1981. Hillary would be a few months older than 69, if inaugurated. As Reagan showed, age doesn't preclude winning elections (he was four years older for his second term, remember). But it would indeed be an issue in the campaign, and a much bigger issue than some might think. The entire Republican field of candidates is decidedly youthful-looking when stacked up against Hillary. The Republican campaign will take on the flavor of "young ideas" versus "old, stale, discredited thinking." While Hillary will be an exciting candidate for women, it remains to be seen if she'll turn out the youth vote as successfully as Obama did.

Of course, "age" is another way of saying "health." Americans want to elect someone who will be reliably healthy while in office. Republicans can be expected to suggest that electing Hillary would be a risk. The health scare she had right before leaving office will be brought up either suggestively or perhaps openly, to convince voters that the (younger, healthier) Republican is a better choice. Campaigning for president is exhaustive, and so Republicans will say that Hillary just isn't up to the challenge.

This will be tough for Hillary to get around, but by being an example of an energetic politician out on the campaign trail, she can work to defuse such worries. She will also be all but guaranteed to choose a vice presidential candidate much younger than she is, to balance out the ticket.

As for Hillary's experience, good and bad, most of it is going to be old news to just about everybody. She inoculated herself against most of it in the 2008 run, meaning nobody's going to pay much attention to opposition research from her days in Arkansas or by Bill's side in the White House this time around. The public has already formed their opinion -- good or bad -- of her earlier days, to put this another way. The only new negatives for her will stem from her term as Secretary of State, and even these have been pretty well hashed-out in the press already. The biggest two negatives from this period are that she didn't accomplish much else as Secretary of State other than flying around the world a lot, and (of course) Benghazi. Hillary will counter the first with a list of accomplishments most have forgotten, and the second by pointing out that only conspiracy theorists (and Fox News) are convinced that Hillary had anything to do with Benghazi.

Hillary Clinton may not be inevitable as the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, but she certainly is formidable, even this early. Barring any health problems, and after she writes a book and enjoys a hugely successful book tour, my guess is that she is going to toss her bonnet in the ring. The Democratic field won't be completely cleared for her, but in the end she will hire much more realistic campaign advisors and run a much more populist campaign, and she will be the odds-on favorite for the entire primary race. Hillary has the best chance of sweeping the primaries, as Democrats fall into line behind her. She is much more comfortable and much more forceful a speaker than she was when she ran in 2008, and she will be a very tough and savvy politician throughout the entire race.

However, if she has any health incidents while campaigning, then the entire race could be blown wide open. If this happens early enough, Hillary may be eclipsed by a Democrat who looks a lot better than Hillary giving speeches from a hospital bed. But if it happens in the general election itself, it could be catastrophic for the Democrats' chances of holding on to the White House -- especially if the Republican candidate is hale and hearty and young.

Like a sports star who is getting along in years, this will be the Democrats' big gamble with Hillary. Does Hillary have one more "big game" in her? If she stays healthy, then there is nobody who has more experience on the presidential campaign trail than Hillary. If she is never put on the disabled list, then she has an excellent shot of sweeping the general election as well as the primaries. She would clearly be the best candidate for the Democrats to choose, and she already polls well in front of all the possible Republican challengers. If she picks up a large "crossover" vote from Republican women, Hillary Clinton might even win an enormous landslide in the Electoral College. Before she even announces, she is already the clear frontrunner -- and my prediction is that she will remain in the front of the pack for the entire election season. As long as she stays healthy.

 

Chris Weigant blogs at:
ChrisWeigant.com

Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant
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Poll: Mitt Romney Would Win 2016 New Hampshire Primary If It Were Held In 2014 For Some Reason

Jason Linkins   |   January 30, 2014    5:43 PM ET

Important news today from the Magical Kingdom of Hypothetica, where polls are conducted many hundreds of days before electoral races begin, and their sweet songs of trolling arrive on a golden wind to beguile the imagination. Mitt Romney, late of losing the 2012 presidential election, is the "frontrunner" for "2016" according to a poll of New Hampshire primary voters.

This could be a challenge to Mike Huckabee, who is also posting pretty good polling numbers in this non-existent primary contest.

National Journal's Matt Vasilogambros, who reports this news directly from the child heralds who flew in from Hypothetica's harlequin-colored court, notes that the Mitt Romney who lives here on our planet has repeatedly said no to another run for president. How many times did he repeat "no"? Eleven times. But, there is a but:

But that didn't stop the Virginia-based bipartisan policy firm Purple Strategies from adding his name to a recent survey for Granite State voters, which shows Romney in the lead with 25 percent support. Libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (who has strong infrastructure in New Hampshire) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are behind with 18 percent and 17 percent support, respectively.

See, that's the thing. Nobody tried to stop Purple Strategies from conducting this poll, because it's a free country and they can do what they want. Though I'll note that articles that report this news are nevertheless supposed to be tagged with the following symbols -- "ℑ" and "»" and "Ñ" -- according to the Edwards-Levy/Linkins Way-Too-Early Polling Shorthand System.

Perhaps my favorite part of this story is the insistence that "GOP insiders want [Romney] to come back." What's the sourcing on that, Skippy? Oh, it's this guy from a Buzzfeed article:

In fact, it's gotten so bad, the operative said, that some donors have started looking back fondly on the good old days of 2012: "You know what a lot of them say to me? I think we need Mitt back."

Hoo, boy! That's a confident take from a guy who's so sure of what he's talking about that he doesn't want to have his name attributed to this nice thing he's saying about Mitt Romney.

Elsewhere in the National Journal piece, we find this: "We might be experiencing Mittmentum 3.0." In all likelihood, no. What we're probably experiencing is "Mitt-stalgia." A portion of the New Hampshire voters who voted to nominate Romney in 2012 would likely do so again. There are two things worth observing here.

First, we're essentially seeing a situation in which many of the people who recently voted for Mitt Romney for president do not think the choice they made was a bad one. Because that's what Purple Strategies is really asking when they drop Romney into this poll: "Do you feel like you'd vote for Romney all over again?" And many would, because many did.

Second, this poll indicates that this far out, none of the more plausible 2016 candidates have captured the loyalty or attention of GOP primary voters in a way that dislodges the memory of the 2012 election and the candidate they backed.

Consider what Vasilogambros observed: "Libertarian firebrand Rand Paul (who has strong infrastructure in New Hampshire) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are behind with 18 percent and 17 percent support, respectively." If nothing else, this tells you that Christie is not doing too badly, despite his recent political travails. Republican primary voters aren't like political media obsessives. They haven't yet paid as much attention to "Bridgegate." One day they might, but at the moment they aren't even thinking of Chris Christie. Mitt Romney is still foremost in their hearts and minds.

Alongside today's other big polling news -- Hillary Clinton has some insane lead over her hypothetical competitors in their hypothetical match-up -- what have we learned? Democrats haven't done much thinking about 2016, but they have moved on from 2012. Which makes sense: they won. Republicans haven't yet moved on. Which makes sense: the guy they wanted voted out of office just gave the State of the Union address.

Turns out that when you call up people on the phone and ask them questions, they respond rather logically. The rest is divination.

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Non-Existent Candidate Leads Non-Existent Competitors In Non-Existent Race, According To Poll

Jason Linkins   |   January 29, 2014    5:29 PM ET

The 2016 election, as you know, is basically any minute now -- if by "any minute" you mean "one million, four hundred and fifty-four thousand, four hundred minutes, give or take." But polls aren't going to conduct themselves, and so on Wednesday there is wow much news so polled very amaze news about the GOP presidential primary that is not happening. Per Politico:

In the wake of his “Uncle Sugar” comments at the Republican National Committee Winter Meeting, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee has taken the lead in a hypothetical 2016 Republican primary, according to a new poll.

Huckabee gained 3 points in the past month to top the GOP field at 16 percent, according to a left-leaning Public Policy Polling survey released Wednesday.

Yes, in the Magic Kingdom of Hypothetica, Mike Huckabee, on the strength of comments that embarrassed Reince Priebus, is narrowly beating Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Luke Skywalker, Grumpy Cat, and a plucky little toaster that can talk and grant wishes, but would trade all of his powers for the chance to find true love.

Meanwhile, in America, I would really, really caution anyone to think twice before betting that Mike Huckabee will run, let alone lead a primary field. Call me up when Huckabee starts doing things like hiring an experienced campaign staff or signing up major donors.

Meanwhile, I'll note that this Politico article failed to use either of the applicable symbols that Ariel Edwards-Levy and I suggested in the Early Polling Shorthand System that we developed last week:

Ø: Yes, your suspicions are correct, Public Policy Polling is trolling you again.
polling symbol seven

By indicating right at the top that the poll in question is a bit of Public Policy Polling trolling, it allows the reader to experience the poll's result in the spirit PPP intended, which is "smirking."

Additionally, the piece should have used the "»" symbol.

»: This poll went ahead and also tested 26 other super-duper obscure candidates because there literally wasn't anything better to ask about in May 2014.
polling symbol three

Wow, me and Ariel basically nailed that one.

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Let's Make 2016 Pollster Speculation Better By Using These Shorthand Symbols In Headlines

Jason Linkins   |   January 22, 2014    7:55 PM ET

It is currently January 2014, many hundreds of days before the 2016 election. That’s a long journey without much to talk about, but as you soon learn when you get into this typing-about-politics game, there are plenty of ways to sustain a pointless conversation. One way we fuel the narrative is with scads and scads of statistical noise, generated by the polling industry, which frequently joins/enables us in chasing the next big fix.

Now, this is not to say that the periodic data generated by pollsters isn't sometimes useful or worthy of mention. Just not a lot of it. And in our experience, a lot of the headlines generated by the efforts of pollsters during the long run-up to an election year starts with a pretty formulaic, or even reflexive, exploration of public opinion, and leads to a concise set of media tropes that can be repeated, week after week, in the headlines of political reporting.

Well, we’ll be damned if there’s anything we can do to stop this from happening, but at the very least, we can make the process more efficient. So, for the benefit of everyone plying the “writing up the most recent polls” trade, we offer a new shorthand system. Using the guide we lay out below, you can save thousands of characters in your polling coverage this year, simply by deploying a few handy symbols that can serve as permanent stand-ins for those sentence-long concepts you would otherwise have to repeat, again and again and again, for the next two years.

As a visual aid, we have provided examples of their usage, rendered in our house style. Enjoy!

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ℑ: This symbol becomes the universal code for: “It's way too early to write about 2016, but here we are doing it anyway, like idiots!”

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Þ: Hillary Clinton and (recent events aside, let’s just say) Chris Christie are ahead in their respective 2016 primaries, shockingly!

ß: Hillary Clinton has a 15-point lead against every GOP candidate who isn't (again, for the sake of argument) Chris Christie.

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»: This poll went ahead and also tested 26 other super-duper obscure candidates because there literally wasn't anything better to ask about in May 2014.

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±: This poll reports that one frequently written-about candidate has experienced a 2-point drop, which we could make into a bigger deal than it is if we just use a super strong verb like “PLUMMETING” or “COLLAPSING.”

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Ñ: “No, [name of candidate] is not running/can’t run/won’t run, but what if [name of candidate] did/could/would run? Huh?! What then!?”

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℘: This poll is hyping a total outlier result, but it's a slow news day.

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Ø: Yes, your suspicions are correct, Public Policy Polling is trolling you again.

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ℜ: Do you remember that time Rudy Giuliani was thought to be a strong presidential contender? Like 2006 or something? In 2022 we're going to find this just as funny.

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Θ: Indicates that the article contains totally disingenuous advice offered to a leading Democratic candidate by pollster-megahacks Douglas Schoen and Pat Caddell.

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⊗: Please stop clicking on stories that mention Sarah Palin.

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[HEADLINE FONT IS COMIC SANS]: This font should just be used for anything Dick Morris says or does.

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“aksdfjkafdgjadljasdfjklsd!!!!”: Use the classic “keyboard smash” anytime someone puts Donald Trump in any poll that’s not “Person Americans would most like to see pushed out to sea on an ice floe,” and it results in some sort of pundit-chaos. (Number of exclamation points can vary according to personal taste.)

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That ought to take care of a lot of problems, but we reserve the right to update this guide when pollsters inevitably create new ones.

More And More People Are Not Running For President

Jason Linkins   |   January 16, 2014    6:25 PM ET

It is 2014 at the moment, but since there isn't any kind of massive unemployment problem and it's totally safe for pregnant women to drink the water, water, everywhere, the media are filling the hole in their lives with only the hottest speculation about the 2016 presidential election.

For example, this week Time magazine is tackling the phenomenon that is Hillary Clinton's shadow campaign for president, noting that the mere threat of her candidacy is keeping other Democrats out of the race. This is less a "news story" than it is a fun and bouncy ball that is being passed from news organization to news organization. Time all but announced the unoriginality of the idea with its cover, which was created by going to a clip art archive and doing a global search for "women" and "clichés." As with the story's trope itself, it's best examined in the gray light of the afterglow of an afterthought.

Against the 2016 onslaught, and our own contributions to it, let us now praise the real heroes of this period of premature frenzy -- those men and women who have seen the light of presidential speculation beaming in their direction and have forthrightly declared, "You can include me out." This week's award for Valor In The Face Of People Wondering If You'll Run For President goes to California Gov. Jerry Brown (D), who is not running for president:

Speaking at a Tuesday news conference in Riverside, Calif., Brown scuttled speculation about his presidential prospects when a reporter asked if he planned to throw his hat in the ring for a fourth time.

"No, that's not in the cards. Unfortunately," Brown said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Actually, California is a lot more governable."

Supporters of Brown -- who ran for the Democratic nomination in 1976, 1980 and 1992 -- had hoped the popular governor would enter the 2016 race. Brown stoked speculation by not explicitly ruling out the possibility, although in May the 75-year-old noted that "time is kind of running out on that."

You are forgiven if you weren't aware that "Jerry Brown 2016" was even a thing about which people were even talking. It was an idea that had a share of anonymous supporters, but only just enough news coverage to warrant an inclusion on Wikipedia's list of potential 2016 candidates.

That page, by the way, is one of the most hilarious reflections of American politics on the Internet, because it turns out it doesn't take much to be included. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) ended up there because a St. Louis Post-Dispatch story speculating on whether Nixon's future included a turn in the national spotlight led to a Politico story speculating on whether Nixon might not get his turn in the national spotlight because of Hillary Clinton, which led to another St. Louis Post-Dispatch story about the aforementioned Politico story, which led to a Washington Post story ... speculating on whether Nixon's future included a turn in the national spotlight, again.

Meanwhile, outside of Missouri, you have probably never heard of Jay Nixon. But you're probably aware that Jerry Brown, between his first and latest stint as the Golden State's governor, ran for president a bunch of times. And so, unsurprisingly, there was always someone on hand to stoke the fires of retro chic. In July 2013, the Washington Examiner's Paul Bedard reported that some of Brown's "allies" were "starting to talk up a possible 2016 presidential bid," while another group of Brown's associates were saying that Brown was going to be "78 [years old] by Election Day 2016," that he "ran for statewide office only to end [California's] budget crisis," and that he was thus "nearly done with politics."

A month later, Bernie Quigley, writing for The Hill, attempted to coax a Brown candidacy into being with the awesome force of the purplest prose he could muster:

California rises again with Brown, and it should come as no surprise. California brings the final destiny of our American journey, the final edge of expectation, the end and then the beginning again, the place and time of our American turning. Steve Jobs put it succinctly at the end: “The spaceship has landed.”

I asked an astute Californian about Brown’s prospects for national office. He said he will be too old in 2016. But Brown, Zen man of contemporary politics, is in a sense timeless.

Yeah ... so that was a lot to absorb. The salient point is that Brown, obviously, doesn't have the same opinion of his own timelessness. (Perhaps he finally decided to not run when he failed to regenerate into Peter Capaldi?)

Brown joins a happy confederacy of other men and women who have indicated that everyone can stop wondering if they are going to run for president, including New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker (D), San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro (D), New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez (R), Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D).

Also, Tim Pawlenty is not going to run for president. (I did some digging and found out that this Pawlenty fellow was a former Republican governor of Minnesota who ran for president once before. Who knew? I guess I totally spaced.)

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This story appears in Issue 85 of our weekly iPad magazine, Huffington, available Friday, Jan. 24 in the iTunes App store.

Chris Christie's 'Shadow Primary' Problem

Jason Linkins   |   January 15, 2014    3:59 PM ET

It is probably way too soon to start speculating on how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) will fare in the 2016 presidential elections. After all, the whole "Bridgegate" scandal still has healthy enough legs to run around the track a little while longer, and the possibility of career-dooming revelations remains extant.

But who can wait! Is Christie doomed, right this very minute? And can the matter be discussed thoughtfully and responsibly? Sure. In fact, here is one case in which what's happening in 2014 actually matters in 2016.

Of course, if you're looking at what actual voters are likely to do, hundreds of days from now, you might be left with the impression that the proverbial "game" has not experienced its clichéd "change" just yet. Early polls have yet to show a dramatic shift in the public's opinion of Christie. In fact, while initial polling of New Jersey voters found his favorability rating took an eight-point hit, it nevertheless remains quite high: "55 percent of likely New Jersey voters now hold a favorable opinion of Christie, while 44 percent view him unfavorably."

And nationally, the scandal doesn't yet appear to have created much downward momentum for Christie. A HuffPost/YouGov poll conducted this week found his favorability rating to be "virtually unchanged compared to other surveys conducted over the course of the last month." Those results neatly dovetail with a similar survey conducted by Pew Research. All of which suggests that in the immediate aftermath of the scandal, Christie's got the opportunity to survive and potentially thrive.

Of course, the operative phrase here is "in the immediate aftermath of the scandal." Depending on what subsequent investigations uncover, Christie's problems could deepen. But there's still a good chance that the scandal will remain a submerged memory in the minds of many voters who are, at the moment, disengaged from the ongoing hullabaloo. Come 2016, Christie's primary opponents are likely to do everything in their power to bring that submerged memory to the surface.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Christie doesn't actually have a 2016 problem. What he's got is a 2014 problem. Because as Matthew Yglesias reminds us today, the "shadow primary" for president is happening right now.

It's happening right now in the sense that in order to win, any candidate needs to first gain the allegiance (or at least nonhostility) of a wide range of elites outside his immediate political circle. House members from South Carolina. State senators from Iowa. Anti-abortion activists in New Hampshire. Talk radio hosts. Fox News executives. Donors. Lobbyists. State-level Chamber of Commerce chiefs. These people are paying attention right now, and they're thinking about who they want to back and who they want to bandwagon against. And there's just no way this bridge thing is making any of those people more likely to support Christie than they were six months ago. Republican elites are mostly looking to find a candidate who is both conservative, effective, and electable and this makes him look less electable and less effective without making him look more conservative. It's bad news.

Those elites had a pretty rough time of things back in 2012. But Mitt Romney, the candidate with the backlog of submerged memories, didn't. Going into the primary competition, everyone made a big deal about all of Romney's exploitable liabilities. He had conservative purity problems. He was a walking, talking weathervane, blowing whichever way the wind did on any particular day. He was the father of the hated Obamacare!

But with all those juicy targets, Romney managed to remain unscathed during the primary. In part, it was because of his under-appreciated ability to stay above the fray, and let the chorus of disapproval drown itself in acrimony. But his larger advantage was simply that his competitors were marginally competitive on their best days, and world historically awful on their worst.

That's why despite the fact that Romney's ascension to front-runner status was fairly tepidly received by the shadow primary keymasters, there was no migration to any of the declared alternatives. Rather, it led to the constant display of party elites begging other potential candidates on bended knee to jump into the race. This phenomenon persisted long after the simple physics of electoral politics made it impossible for any would-be contender to contemplate such a feat. (Ironically, the major beneficiary of all those "PLEASE PLEASE JUMP INTO THE RACE" prostrations was Chris Christie.)

But 2016 is shaping up as a different animal entirely. It's likely to be a buyers' market for GOP party elites in 2016, with lots of decent alternatives to Christie. As Yglesias points out, "You get to be quite choosy, so every stumble counts for a lot." When you consider that Christie is likely to draw competitors like Jeb Bush, Paul Ryan and Scott Walker, as opposed to Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, there's no reason for party elites to be desperate or settle early.

READ THE WHOLE THING:
Bridgegate Is Hurting Christie's 2016 Ambitions Right Now [Moneybox @ Slate]

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What Time Is Hillary Clinton Running For President?

Jason Linkins   |   January 6, 2014    6:36 PM ET

It is now 2014, which means that our interest and attention must now turn to the upcoming election. In 2016.

Yes, that seems stupid! But the relentlessness of presidential election-year speculation gives no quarter to anyone. Least of all, rumored candidate and would-be frontrunner Hillary Clinton, whose "shadow campaign" is the subject of a massively well-reported and informative article from Maggie Haberman that has injected a ton of creatine into the overall 2016 scene. (Biggest takeaway, by the way: Clinton has apparently passed Alex Pareene's "Mark Penn Test," so congratulations to everyone involved.)

Right about now, you are probably asking yourself, "If this 'shadow campaign' exists, shouldn't I assume that a future Hillary Clinton candidacy is now a fait accompli?" From there, you may also wonder, "If there is all this effort to build the foundation of a candidacy, why won't Hillary Clinton just come out and be forthright about her intentions?" The answers to these questions, officially, are, "Maybe, but you won't be thought a complete idiot if you make that assumption," and, "Because she's not yet decided what she wants to do."

All of this apparently led Jonathan Bernstein, proprietor of the excellent "A Plain Blog About Politics," to try to make some important distinctions between "running for 2016" and "running in 2016." (This is a good time to point out that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a veteran of light "running for" various presidential elections, but only ran in one. That was in 2012 -- which he made super-duper complicated.)

You should follow Bernstein on Twitter and read his blog on the regular. Here is his dissertation from today.

["@FHQ" refers to Josh Putnam, who runs the FrontloadingHQ blog and who is an all-around guru extraordinare of the fine points of the electoral process. He's an all-around good guy, too. Highly recommended follow.]

Hillary Clinton, then, can be said to be involved in a process known as "keeping your options open." And as it turns out, that can entail a lot of work. (Haberman, for example, describes how a pair of super PACs, Ready For Hillary and Priorities USA, needed some assistance working out how they would collaborate on a possible Clinton run without being in open conflict with one another.) Of course, the whole lure of "keeping your options open" may also be a pleasant experience (or even fun!), because ultimately, you are committing to nothing.

At least, it's fun for the candidate, anyway! Right now, a lot of people are working to provide Clinton with a solid campaign should she decide to run. If she doesn't, they'll have done much of that work for naught. But them's the breaks, and it's been known to happen. If you cast your mind back to the very early part of the 2012 run-up, you might recall that veteran GOP campaign manager Ed Rollins worked very hard to keep Mike Huckabee's "options open" for a good long while, only for Huckabee to ultimately decide that the "not running for president" option was the one he wanted to pursue.

Rollins ended up working for Michele Bachmann instead. There were some regrets!

But look, presidential speculation is going to happen, and it's not entirely without value. All Bernstein is advocating here is for those who want to pursue the activity of 2016 speculation do so in a calm, realistic and sensible fashion.

For this heresy, Bernstein will probably be summarily executed.

[Would you like to follow me on Twitter? Because why not?]

Chris Christie And The Perils Of Inevitability

Jason Linkins   |   November 21, 2013    1:21 PM ET

One of the reasons that the political media has gotten a crazy jump-start on 2016 presidential speculation is because among the slim pickings of electoral contests in 2013 was the New Jersey governor's race, won earlier this month by incumbent Republican Gov. Chris Christie. Christie, long thought to be a certain contender for higher office at some point in the future, ended up the focus of the media's typical "MAN WIN THING THEREFORE MAYBE MAN WIN OTHER THING" reaction to shiny-shiny events, and a huge dose of creatine was added to the 2016 scene.

Of course, there is a double-edge to this kind of media attention, and you get a taste of it in an article in USA Today by Martha T. Moore, titled, "Before 2016, Christie has to position himself carefully":

Christie hasn't said he will run for president, but most of his constituents — along with plenty of political pundits — expect that he will. Fifty-nine percent of New Jerseyites say he will seek the presidency in 2016, according to a Rutgers-Eagleton poll taken this month.

To preserve that prospect, Christie has to walk a fine line: He must maintain the political momentum he has been steadily gaining since he came to national attention during Superstorm Sandy last year without risking overexposure or becoming viewed as the "inevitable" GOP nominee.

Ah, yes! The perils of inevitability! Two months ago, when Christie was coasting to a certain win in New Jersey, inevitability wasn't so bad. But now it's terrible! And it's up to Christie to "walk a fine line," now, because of the terrible disadvantages that come from having so many advantages.

It's not just Christie's problem, either. As Maggie Haberman wrote back in October:

The most urgent question Hillary Clinton would face if she were to run again for president is whether she could avoid the blunders — the bitter staff rivalries going public, the poisonous relationship with the press, the presumption of inevitability — that helped doom her campaign five years ago.

Hillary Clinton is pretty much the test case for the curse of inevitability, and it's become an article of faith for political reporters that somehow, her 2008 presidential bid came to ruin because so many political reporters held her to be the presumptive front-runner. And yet, while one can glibly insist that the "presumption of inevitability" was a thing that "helped doom her campaign," the hows and whys of it can't be explained.

I mean, what happened? Were there a whole lot of Hillary supporters that got turned off by the fact that Hillary had a whole lot of supporters? What is it about "inevitability" that causes a person to vote against someone? Does a switch flip in the mind of a voter, leading them away from an "inevitable" candidate at the moment they come to be so described?

Think about it. If inevitability is a thing that inevitably leads to the inevitable candidate being doomed in favor of less inevitable candidates, should we not say, right now, that one of the less inevitable 2016 candidates is, in fact, the most inevitable?

USA Today's Moore basically insists that "inevitability" is a quality that voters do not like: "The aura of inevitability can send primary voters into the arms of other candidates, as Mitt Romney learned In 2012."

Is that what happened in 2012, though? This is a thing that I think Moore has convinced herself of, as she has explained: "GOP primary voters turned from Herman Cain to Newt Gingrich to Rick Perry to Rick Santorum before finally settling on Romney –- but the speed-dating took a toll on the eventual nominee."

Ahh, no. People responding to polls at the time shone favor on a host of non-Romney candidates, like Herman Cain and Rick Perry. Actual voters tended to favor Mitt Romney in large numbers, Santorum in smaller numbers and Gingrich on two memorable occasions in South Carolina and Georgia. And the plethora of candidates didn't so much take a toll on Mitt Romney as much as they took a toll on each other. Romney, the inevitable nominee, was nominated, and his "inevitable nature" never cost him.

But what's past is past. The larger question is, "What are Chris Christie and Hillary Clinton supposed to do about it?" Once you've been tagged as "inevitable," what's the solution? To hear Moore tell it, you have to do a lot of stuff ("rack up legislative achievements," travel a lot) while simultaneously managing to not do a lot of stuff (go "underground"). That's going to be a pretty neat trick.

GOP strategist Ron Bonjean tells Moore that Christie has to be careful in the way he manages his social media "moments," saying, "He could screw it up by having that one moment where he goes overboard."

But, if Christie is caught on YouTube "going overboard," wouldn't that help him with that whole "inevitability" thing that could wreck his candidacy? Perhaps Chris Christie must destroy his inevitability in order to save it!

It's all sort of confusing, unless you simply accept that "inevitability" is a mantle that's forced upon a candidate by the media, who will then, in the next part of the narrative, start evincing all this terrible concern that the mantle will work to the candidate's detriment.

That's the only inevitable thing here. My advice to you: When you encounter a piece of writing that muses about the perils of inevitability, just close the tab.

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Elizabeth Warren Said To Be Raising No Money For The 2016 Run That Is Not Happening

Jason Linkins   |   November 18, 2013    1:06 PM ET

Presidential speculation in the modern era of "OMG SHINY SHINY BOUNCY BOUNCY" political reporting can be built on just about anything: wishes, dreams, Internet memes. But to actually run a campaign, you need to corral large stacks of tall dollars from rich people. I warned you that this was a pretty critical concern for anyone hedging their bets on a possible 2016 run from Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and now here's Ruby Cramer, officially popping everyone's brightly-colored party balloons over at Buzzfeed this morning:

Elizabeth Warren's former national finance chair, Paul Egerman, has told several inquiring donors this month that, despite runaway speculation and a burning desire from the party's left wing, the freshman senator will not run for president in 2016.

Despite all the frenzy, Warren has said again, and again, and again that she won't be running in 2016. So why are we still harping on this? Basically, the road to 2016 is a very long one, and people need something to talk about. (Newly minted New Jersey Senator Cory Booker has also said repeatedly that he's not going to run for president in 2016, but he'll get his turn on this ferris wheel eventually.)

Of course, as the New Yorker points out, Warren could still totally change her mind and decide to run later. But the operative word is "later." And probably only if you see words like "Hillary Clinton decides not to run," followed by, "Elizabeth Warren raises a crazy amount of money."

Until then, go read Cramer's whole thing for even more very strenuous instances of people being told on no uncertain terms that they can dial back all their Warren 2016 expectations for the forseeable future. It also includes this weird quote from a fundraiser: "The geese talk to the geese. The bears talk to the bears. And the hippos talk to the hippos."

But what does the fox say?! And so forth.

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