Who wins if Hillary Clinton doesn't run in 2016?

Some Democrats are crossing their fingers that Clinton sits this one out

Vice President Joe Biden
(Image credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A new Quinnipiac poll comparing potential Democratic candidates for 2016 comes to a familiar conclusion: Hillary Clinton, if she decides to run, would absolutely dominate the competition.

The poll has 65 percent of potential Democratic voters picking Hillary Clinton as their presidential nominee in 2016. That's in line with multiple recent polls — including from Gallup, PPP, and PublicMind — showing Clinton as the overwhelming favorite in a Democratic primary.

What's interesting about the Quinnipiac poll is that it conducted a separate survey in which Clinton was removed from the race. Which Democrats come out on top if Clinton decides to stay off the campaign trail?

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Deval Patrick

Support: 6 percent

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is benefiting from what could be called the Chris Christie effect. The governor of New Jersey got a lot of nationwide exposure after Hurricane Sandy, and Patrick has been similarly thrust into the spotlight after the Boston Marathon bombings. The people like what they see.

"An emergency like this shows a new dimension of him," Maurice Cunningham, a political scientist at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, told USA Today. "He has a comforting presence, anyway, and that's an advantage. He has to be reassuring to the public and to show the resolve of people."

Not that he is a new face in the Democratic Party. Now in his second term, Patrick became the first black governor of Massachusetts in 2006. Before that, the Harvard Law graduate served as Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights under President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Patrick has called talk of him running in 2016 "just chatter," and claims he wants to return to the private sector after his governorship ends in 2014, according to ABC News.

Andrew Cuomo

Support: 15 percent

Hillary Clinton poses a lot of problems for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. As The New York Times' Raymond Hernandez points out, Clinton, now seen by New Yorkers as a local, would siphon away lots of his presumed hometown support. Indeed, the New York Post reports that Cuomo has all but ruled out a run if Clinton enters the race.

However, with Clinton on the sidelines, Cuomo would have the advantage of representing the country's third most populous state. Cuomo's near-miraculous feat of cajoling Republican state senators into supporting gay marriage in 2011 won him lots of fans in the Democratic Party. Furthermore, in 2011 he was able to overcome the usual dysfunction in Albany and get a tax deal done with Republicans, a notch in his bipartisan credentials. He also has federal experience, serving as secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Bill Clinton.

A telltale sign that he is at least considering running: He recently inked a book deal with HarperCollins, which will offer a "full and frank look at his public and private life," according to BuzzFeed, a de riguer move for presidential hopefuls these days (see: Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope and Mitt Romney's No Apology: The Case for American Greatness).

Joe Biden

Support: 45 percent

Early in the game, name recognition is everything. And Joe Biden is well-liked among Democrats — 76 percent said they had a favorable view of the vice president in a recent Gallup poll.

He might already be preparing for a 2016 run. According to The New York Times, he has attended a pre-inaugural party with Iowa Democrats, and invited the governor of New Hampshire to his private swearing-in ceremony, a sign that he is already buttering up the early primary states.

His ambitions might have been betrayed, unsurprisingly, by a gaffe. According to NBC News, while campaigning in Florida in 2012, he said the following to a voter about the Affordable Care Act: "And after it's all over when your insurance rates go down, then you'll vote for me in 2016."

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Keith Wagstaff is a staff writer at TheWeek.com covering politics and current events. He has previously written for such publications as TIME, Details, VICE, and the Village Voice.