By Paul Steinhauser, CNN Political Editor
Washington (CNN) — Hillary Clinton hasn’t even stepped down yet as secretary of state and there’s already constant speculation as to whether she’ll run again for the White House. While no decision from her on any future bid for president is expected in 2013, expect speculation about her future political plans to intensify throughout the New Year.
But if she eventually changes her mind and decides to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016, a new national survey indicates that the vast majority of Democrats would consider backing her as their party’s nominee.
According to a CNN/ORC International poll released Sunday morning, 85% of Democrats and independents who lean towards the Democratic Party say they’d be very or somewhat likely to support Clinton if she runs for the Democratic nomination. There’s a slight gender divide, with 93% of Democratic women saying they’d be very or somewhat likely to support Clinton. That figure drops to 79% among Democratic men.
Clinton has repeatedly said that she intends to retire to private life once her successor as secretary of state is confirmed by the Senate, and she’s added that another run for the White House is not in the cards for her.
“Look, I’m flattered. I am honored,” she told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer earlier this year about calls by other Democrats for her to consider another run in 2016. “That is not in the future for me, but obviously I’m hoping that I’ll get to cast my vote for a woman running for president of our country.”
Two-thirds of Democrats questioned say they would be very or somewhat likely to support Vice President Joe Biden if he runs for the White House. Biden has not ruled out a third bid for president (he ran unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008). On Election Day, when asked if it was the last time he’d vote for himself, the vice president said “No, I don’t think so.”
The poll indicates that 56% of Democrats say they would be very or somewhat likely to support New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The Empire State governor, who was elected in 2010, is thought to be considering a run for president, possibly taking the step that his father, former three-term N.Y. Gov. Mario Cuomo, did not take in 1992.
Fifty-two percent of Democrats say they’d be very or somewhat likely to back Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who’s very popular with the liberal base of the party, with 41% saying they would support that state’s two-term governor, Deval Patrick. And 37% say they would be very or somewhat likely to support outgoing Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Only six potential White House hopefuls from each party were included in the survey’s questionnaire, so respondents were not asked about some possible contenders for the Democratic nomination, such as Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia.
Considering the race that is some two years from starting, the results are influenced mostly by name recognition.
A CNN/ORC poll conducted in December 2008 indicated that 34% of Republicans said they were very or somewhat likely to support former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee as their 2012 nominee, with then-Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska at 32%. Both of them eventually decided to pass on running in 2012. A few points back were the eventual nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who did seek the nomination.
Romney’s running mate tops the current GOP list of 2016 hopefuls. Three-quarters of Republicans or independents who lean Republican say that they’d be very or somewhat likely to support Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan if he runs. At a recent conservative awards dinner Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, joked about running for the White House, saying “know any good diners in New Hampshire or Iowa? I’m sure the press won’t read too much into that one.”
Fifty-nine percent of Republicans say they’d back Chris Christie. The tough-talking New Jersey governor considered running for the 2012 nomination but eventually ruled it out and backed Romney.
One point behind Christie in the poll is Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, and 51% say they’d support that state’s former governor, Jeb Bush. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who’s publicly said he’s considering a run, had the approval of 48% of respondents, as did former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who earlier this year battled Romney deep into the spring for the GOP nomination.
Among the possible GOP hopefuls not included in the questionnaire are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International December 17-18, with 290 Democrats and independents who lean Democrat, and 290 Republicans and independents who lean Republican, questioned by telephone. The survey’s sampling error is plus or minus 6 percentage points.