The early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign are already underway. Hillary Clinton has held a steady, arguably insurmountable lead for the Democratic nomination, while the Republican nomination is much more fluid. Senator Rand Paul is the frontrunner, thanks to a drop in support for Senator Marco Rubio in Iowa over immigration reform.
At this point, Clinton can essentially walk in and take the Democratic nomination. In Iowa, wins an incredible 71% of the vote. Of course, pundits will argue that Clinton seemed inevitable in 2008, but that was only because it was assumed that then-Senator Obama would not run. Today, there is no one with the super-stardom of Obama on the Democratic Party stage at all.
If Clinton decides not to run, the race (and the general election) becomes more interesting.
Biden is the clear favorite, taking 51% of the vote in Iowa, compared to 13% for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, 9% for New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and 6% for Newark Mayor Cory Booker. The latter three have not received the attention that Biden has, so their numbers are more likely to reflect a floor, while his tend to reflect a ceiling.
The most important polls to look at are in Iowa and New Hampshire, as their results dramatically shift the national polls. By this measure, Paul is the frontrunner as he leads in both states. His position poll-wise is the one most comparable to Romney’s during his successful 2012 bid for the nomination.
In February, PPP had Rubio tied with Huckabee for the lead in Iowa (each at 16%). Paul was right on their heels (15%), closely followed by Jeb Bush (14%), Chris Christie (12%) and Paul Ryan (10%). The bottom tier was New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (4%), Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (3%) and Texas Governor Rick Perry (3%).
PPP noted at that time that Rubio’s strength came from “very conservative” voters; the primary voters most in disagreement with him on immigration reform. He has fallen 5% in Iowa and is now in fifth place; quite a dramatic shakeup.
The beneficiaries from Rubio’s slip and the replacement of Huckabee with Senator Ted Cruz in the poll options are Paul (18%), Christie (16%) and Ryan (15%). Interestingly, Ryan’s support increased by five points even though he also supports the immigration reform plan. Fortunately for him, Rubio has more closely associated with it, but that would change after the first primary debate.
Bush’s support in Iowa is holding steady at 14%, while Rubio has fallen to 11% and Cruz debuts with 10%. Last year’s winner of the Iowa Caucus, former Senator Rick Santorum, only has 6%. The bottom tier is Jindal (2%) and Martinez (1%), the latter of which seems unlikely to run.
There hasn’t been a poll in New Hampshire for a month, but the most recent one also shows Clinton and Paul ahead.
For the Democrats, Clinton has the support of 61%. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick comes in third, making him the biggest threat to Biden in New Hampshire if she declines to run.
Paul led in New Hampshire by four points with 22%, ahead of Ryan with 18%. Christie and Rubio were tied for third with 17% and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had 2%. It can be assumed that Rubio has also slipped here as well, bringing him down to fourth place.
There are some other polls that give us a glimpse of the makeup of the future campaign.
Christie wins the electability argument. He still loses to Clinton by 6%, but he has a wide lead of 11% over Biden. Paul, on the other hand, loses to Clinton by 12% and ties Biden. In the critical battleground state of Ohio, Christie ties Clinton but crushes Biden by 18%. Paul loses to Clinton by 3% and defeats Biden by 9%.
Rubio’s electability argument rests upon his ability to win over Latino voters. However, Clinton defeats him among Latinos by 38% and Biden wins by 32%. Rubio is the most popular GOP candidate among Latinos, leading Christie by 15% but the general election match-ups show his selection would not trigger a decisive shift. However, 40% of Latinos did not know Rubio or had no opinion, leaving a lot of room for upward movement.
Polls actually show that Bush is more electable than Rubio and he may be able to argue that he’d be more popular among Latinos. In Florida, Clinton defeats Bush by 7% and Rubio by 12%. Biden loses to Bush by 4% and Rubio wins by 2%.
Another significant development is Perry’s decision not to run for re-election; a move that is widely interpreted as interest in a presidential bid.
Perry improved in the debates following his infamous gaffe, but he’s having a hard time convincing voters that he will not make that mistake again. A poll in his own state found him in sixth place, 20% behind Cruz. PPP finds that Clinton beats him by 8% in Texas, a must-win state for the GOP.
The takeaway from this analysis of the polls is that there’s a high price to pay among GOP primary voters for supporting anything seen as amnesty. National polls aside, Paul is now the frontrunner and Rubio isn’t.
You can’t be considered one of the frontrunners if you are in fifth place in Iowa and fourth place in New Hampshire. Team Rubio should be worried.
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