Chris Christie Leads Republican Field In 2016 Poll

Chris Christie has had a very good month, and it's ending with him with a strong lead among potential Republican candidates for 2016.

Chris Christie Victory Speech 2013

Chris Christie’s overwhelming re-election win has paid off in the latest poll of potential candidates for the GOP nomination in 2016:

Washington (CNN) – A new national poll indicates, that for the first time, there may be an early frontrunner in the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

And according to a CNN/ORC International survey, if Hillary Clinton decides against making another bid for the White House, Vice President Joe Biden would be the initial favorite to capture the Democratic nomination.

The poll, released Friday morning, indicates that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, fresh off his Garden State re-election landslide victory and widespread national media attention, jumped to the top of the pack of potential contenders for the GOP nomination.

Twenty-four percent of Republicans and independents who lean towards the GOP questioned in the survey say they’d be likely to support Christie for the Republican nomination, up seven percentage points from a CNN poll in early September. Back then, Christie and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget chairman and the 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, were virtually tied at the top of the GOP list, with Christie at 17% and Ryan at 16%.

But Ryan, who’s stayed mostly away from the political spotlight the past few months, has dropped to 11%, putting him in third place, slightly behind Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, at 13%. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who like Paul has made multiple trips this year to the states that kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar, like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, stands at 10% in the survey, the only other Republican White House hopeful to get double-digit support.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is at 9% in the poll, with longtime Texas Gov. and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry at 7%, and former two-term Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who battled eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney deep into last year’s primaries and caucuses, each at 6%.

As always, early polling like this ought to be taken with a grain of salt. With more than a year to go before we even start seeing the 2016 race start to coalesce in the summer of 2015, there’s plenty that could happen that could reshuffle the Republican deck and, while it certainly seems apparent that Christie is setting a 2016 campaign into motion now that he has re-election behind him, there’s always the possibility that, for one reason or another, he may decide not to run although that seems unlikely at this point.  At the same time, though, as many will point out the value of polling a Presidential campaign this early in the cycle is questionable best, as Presidents Giuliani and Hillary Clinton can tell you.

The most interesting thing about this poll, of course, is the fact that Christie has opened up a lead outside the margin of error over his nearest potential opponents, which is something we really haven’t seen in many of the polls of Republican candidates up until now. Typically, if someone has had a lead, it’s been a lead of between two or three points over a very packed field. Christie’s seven point lead over his closest potential opponent is, at the very least, a strong indication that his reelection win, and the positive press that his gotten since then, has been a significant boost to his potential candidacy. Also interesting the change we’ve seen in this race in just about a month. Back in September, just as he was leading he Republican Party into what turned out to be an unwise, pointless, and politically stupid shutdown, Ted Cruz was leading the pack, albeit by a small margin, and Rand Paul wasn’t far behind him. Now, it seems as though most of the Congressional candidates on the list of potential GOP candidates have fallen in the polls while those from outside Washington, like Christie, have risen. The one exception to that seems to be Paul Ryan, who stayed mostly in the background during the shutdown and has now ended up being the guy leading the GOP in the ongoing budget negotiations. No doubt, this is a reflection of the general disdain for Congress that the government shutdown created even among Republicans.

Republican poll respondents have proven themselves to be fickle in these polls, though. Christie has led in these match-ups before only to be supplanted at times by others such as Rand Paul and Cruz, usually in the wake of some high profile event like Rand Paul’s filibuster in March, or Cruz leading the shutdown in late September. Additionally, of course, there’s still the question of just how accepting conservatives would end up being of Christie as a candidate. In the beginning, obviously, they’ll likely try to rally around Paul, Cruz, or some other conservative candidate in the hope that they will catch fire before Christie, who would likely have the weight of the GOP’s business and “establishment” wings behind him. That’s exactly what happened in 2012, when we saw conservatives cycle through Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum before finally accepting the inevitability of Mitt Romney’s nomination, and I think we can expect something similar with regard to Christie. Fairly or unfairly, Christie is seen as a “moderate” Republican simply because he comes from New Jersey, and there are still many on the right who haven’t forgiven him for his “embrace” of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy or his attacks on Congressional Republicans at the end of 2012 over the issue of authorizing disaster aid. It’s going to take some time, and some fence mending, for people to put that behind them and some are unlikely to ever really forgive him. At the same time, though, nothing succeeds like success, and if Christie manages to start pulling of the same kind of string of primary wins that Romney did in 2012, then it won’t be long before they start rallying behind him for the General Election.

Again, all of this is purely speculative at this point. Six months from now, heck even six weeks from now, the polling for 2016 could be completely different. For the moment, though, Christie looks to be the strongest potential contender for the 2016 Republican nomination.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    So the big guy is clearly now the target that the others have to bring down. Who’s got the money and the nastiness to attack early? I’m guessing Cruz. Cruz gains nothing by attacking Paul, he has to make that a bank shot because he’ll want the Paulites later. But Christie is clearly a RINO by the lunatic laws of the stupid party, so he’s fair game.

    Fat, boisterous, gets along with Obama, and presumed to be suspect simply by virtue of geography. Those will be the lines of attack since there are few issue differences. The key words will be character, temperament, self-discipline and loyalty. I bet a dollar they try to attach the dog-whistle word, “urban” to Christie. They’ll pull out every photo they can locate showing Christie in a two-shot with Cory Booker.

    If Cruz had not imploded he might have gotten someone else to do his attack dog work, but he doesn’t swing that kind of weight anymore so he’ll have to do it himself. Santorum will do a bit as well, I should think. And if I’m Paul I just sit it out for a while, see if I can stay clear while Christie and Cruz go at it, figure to lose Iowa and win New Hampshire.

  2. CSK says:

    It’s difficult to imagine Tea Partiers who see Mitch McConnell as ideologically indistinguishable from Harry Reid (no, I’m not engaging in hyperbole) ever voting for Christie, even under extreme duress. Many of them have stated that they have no intention of voting for any Republican ticket but Palin/Cruz.

    I have no idea how large in number these people are, but they certainly are noisy.

  3. rudderpedals says:

    Think he’ll avoid Giuliani’s campaigning mistakes while surviving the early states?

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    Doug, you know nothing of Chris Christie’s life so I suggest you keep quiet about it.

  5. Woody says:

    He’s perfecting the Art of the Valence Issue on the gasbag shows, the courtier press are cultivating Christie’s inner circle and the big money boys are undoubtably irritated spending all that cash on the unelectable, so I’d expect this trend to continue.

    Personally, I think it’s too early for overt attacks, but maybe it’s better to damage early on, before the Halperin set becomes fully invested in the Next Republican Saviour.

  6. Stonetools says:

    I see Christie as having a better chance of winning the Democratic primary in 2016. I just don’t see the South warning up to Christie. Cruz and Perry will tear him to shreds over his appointing a Muslim judge and “blinking” on the same sex marriage.

  7. anjin-san says:

    I don’t think Christie would be a disaster as President, so he is probably utterly unacceptable to the teas.

  8. Todd says:

    Chris Christie would be in an interesting candidate against Clinton if he didn’t have to go through the Republican primaries first. In the YouTube era, those debates are just killers. The concept of running to the right in the primary, then tacking back to the center in the general election is so outdated. And unlike Romney and McCain, who really did occasionally have some moderate inclinations, but were forced to “pretend” to be more right-wing than they really are, with Christie it would be more a case being force to take of his mask. I take him at his word when he says that’s he’s a Conservative. It just shows how good a politician he is that so few people in New Jersey believed him.

  9. CSK says:


    Don’t forget guns ‘n’ gynecology. They see Christie as rabidly anti-Second Amendment and rabidly pro-abortion. And he also said a week or so ago that if gay people got married, he was happy for them. That comment nudged him higher up on the hit list.

  10. Stonetools says:

    Chris Christie is really an “independent’s” idea of what the best republican candidate would be ( hence the Doug love). Unfortunately he is not a Republican primary voter’s idea of what the ideal Republican candidate is, which would be like a Rick Perry with brains or a Ted Cruz who wasn’t a gigantic a$$hole.
    Still, a northeast Republican did win the last primary. To do so, he had to pretend to be severely conservative and to lie his a$$ off. Can Christie do so as easily as Romney? I doubt it, but we’ll see.

  11. michael reynolds says:


    I don’t think anyone can equal the falseness of Mitt Romney. The man was an invertebrate – slimy, cold and not very bright. Romney was the genius of phoniness. Christie, by contrast, appears to have human emotions and even actual beliefs.

    What I can’t figure out is what primary he thinks he can win. Iowa? No way. New Hampshire? Maybe, but I think if Paul gets in NH is his. South Carolina? Hah.

    I don’t know what the 2016 schedule will be, but up next in 2012 was Florida. Maybe he has a shot in Florida, but it’ll be tough if he’s been shut out up until then. I’d love to get a peek at his campaign manager’s road map.

  12. gVOR08 says:

    Last two cycles the establishment R candidate got enough money to survive the clown act and emerge with the nomination. Rubio seems to have faded without ever rising. Jeb apparently realizes the memory of his brother is still too fresh. Who’s the establishment money going to coalesce around if not Christie?

  13. Stonetools says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I agree. I I think he will fall into the Guilani trap- no winnable states in the early going,then running out of money by the time Florida comes around. Presidential campaigns follow certain patterns and one of them is that you have to win someplace early. If you don’t, you fall out of the picture as donor money goes to the early victors.
    The only thing that Christie really has going for him is independent love and MSM love. Maybe he can parley that to victory, but I doubt it.

  14. grumpy realist says:

    @gVOR08: This is definitely going to come down to an Establishment vs. Teh Base (i.e., Teahadists) run.

    Can I root for injuries?

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @grumpy realist: I will be.

  16. Steve Lonigan says:

    It would be cool if the GOP ran a Catholic and a Northerner as the pridential candidate, but I doubt if the South will stand still for that. They seem to go more for the preachy typles like George W, Huckabee or Newt.