Marco Rubio Rises To The Top Of The GOP Field In New Poll

Less than two weeks after entering the race, Florida Senator Marco Rubio is at the top of the GOP field in a new poll.

Image: Marco Rubio

A new national poll puts Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who just entered the Presidential race last week, at the top of a field that remains tight, showing that the Florida Senator has had the most successful campaign launch so far of any of the candidates to enter the race:

Sen. Marco Rubio leads all Republican presidential hopefuls in a new poll released Thursday morning, capturing some momentum in the weeks after he became the third major Republican to announce his presidential campaign.

The Florida senator garnered support from 15% of the registered Republicans polled by Quinnipiac University, giving him a slight edge over his mentor Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who won 13% of the vote in the poll.

Rubio also performed the best of all the potential Republican candidates in hypothetical head-to-head matchups against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, trailing her by only two percentage points.

The poll — surveying national Republicans and coming nine months before the first votes will be cast in the Iowa caucuses — serves as a signal that Rubio has the potential to make a run at the nomination.

“This is the kind of survey that shoots adrenaline into a campaign,” said Tim Malloy, the assistant director of the poll, in a statement. “Marco Rubio gets strong enough numbers and favorability ratings to look like a legit threat to Hillary Clinton.”

Most early opinion polls have shown Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leading the Republican field. Walker earns bronze in the new Quinnipiac poll, with 11% of respondents saying they would vote for him. A significant number of Republican primary voters — 14% — said they didn’t know who they planned to support.

Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz earned 9% of the vote in the poll, and his Senate colleague from Kentucky, Rand Paul, won 8%. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tied with 7% support — the rest of the field earned 3% or less. The margin of error for Republicans in the survey is 4.1 percentage points.

The Quinnipiac findings track closely with a CNN/ORC poll issued this week, though Bush beats Rubio by 5 percentage points in that survey.

All GOP candidates in the Quinnipiac poll trail Clinton, but the difference between Rubio and the former secretary of state is the smallest in all one-on-one battles: two percentage points. Paul lost to Clinton in a hypothetical match-up by four points; Christie, Walker and Huckabee by 5; and Cruz and Bush by 7.

In the CNN/ORC poll, the differences between Clinton and her rivals are much wider, with Rubio faring best by keeping the distance to 14 percentage points. CNN/ORC polled all adults, rather than registered voters, and asked the head-to-head questions with different wordings than did Quinnipiac, which could factor into the varied findings

In the previous Quinnipiac poll, conducted before any of the candidates that have announced recently entered the race, Rubio was polling at 5%, so his jump to the top of the field, albeit still within the margin of error, is significant news for him since it shows him vaulting into what is arguably the top tier of the Republican field at the moment almost immediately. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul also improved their numbers from the last Quinnipiac poll, but in their cases the increases were much smaller than Rubio’s and didn’t really do much of anything to shift their position among the swath of candidates and potential candidates for the Republican nomination. Rubio’s rise here was also mirrored, to a smaller extent, by the the CNN/ORC poll that I made note of earlier this week, although, as noted, in that case the poll still showed Bush and Walker at the top of the field with Rubio and Paul behind them at 11% each. Neither of these polls have had much of an impact on the RealClearPolitics average, which still largely reflects the results of polling done before any candidates had entered the race, but that is likely to change as more polls are released over the coming weeks and months.

Philip Bump argues that Rubio’s polling surge can be attributed to only one thing, a successful campaign launch and the fact that he benefits to some extent from being the person who entered the race most recently at the time the poll was conducted. On some level, I suppose, that last part is largely correct in that Rubio’s name will have been in the news at the time the poll was taken and thus fresh in the minds of respondents. At the same time, though, it’s worth noting that we didn’t see similar quick jumps in the polls for either Ted Cruz or Rand Paul, although their numbers have increased since they got in the race to some extent. A ten point swing is not something that should be dismissed out of hand, even in polls taken this far out, and I’d suggest that Rubio’s jump can at least be partly attributable to the fact that he seems to have gotten a better reception to his announcement than either Cruz or Paul did. An additional factor could be the fact that Rubio is someone that prospective Republican voters have been very familiar with for five year now and, while his star did dim significantly after the Senate immigration battle, it’s always been possible that there remained a reservoir of good will among voters that would work to his benefit once he entered the race.

The question, of course, is whether this momentum will continue and whether Rubio will be able to sustain his position as a top tier candidate for the nomination. With many more candidates still yet to enter the race, including not just Jeb Bush and Scott Walker, but other potentially competitive candidates like Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry, that’s far from a certainty. If he can do that, though, then he’ll be among the handful of candidates likely to get the most press attention later this year and heading into the early caucuses and primaries in February, and that’s at least part of what he’ll need to get people to the polls to vote for him. Rubio’s path isn’t an easy one, but of the people who have entered the race so far he seems to be among the most likely to be able to pull off a win, especially if Jeb Bush stumbles or finds it so hard to gain support among the party base that his candidacy doesn’t prove to be viable. The same cannot be said for candidates like Cruz, Paul, and, most especially, the rest of the clown car.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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. Scott says:

    Given that it is so early in the cycle, I think we are just seeing flavor of the week poll results. When one launches, the news is mostly positive. After a week or so the negativity starts and the polls will drop. I just don’t think people are giving any of these candidates much attention at this point. If they do at all, it is just a head on the TV as they pass by. Much too early to care.

  2. cd6 says:

    The junior senator from Florida took another long look in the mirror. He pulled at and straightened his tie for the fifteenth time.

    “Five minutes, Senator,” the bubbly blonde girl assigned as Marco’s prep handler piped in from the doorway, before ducking back out of sight.

    “Ok,” Marco croaked back. She was already gone, though.

    “You’re out of your league, Marco.”

    “No I’m not,” he said back, in a barely audible wiper. He tugged the tie again. The damn thing wouldn’t sit straight.

    “America needs a hero. It needs bold vision. You think you can really handle that?”

    “Sure I can,” he reassured himself. A line of perspiration broke out on his forehead. He dabbed it away with one of the American flag napkins in his room. “I think I can do this.”

    “You can’t just think you can do it. You have to know it.

    “Ok. Ok, I know it.”

    “You better, kid. The country needs you. We need you to be bold.”

    Marco Rubio had formally declared his candidacy for the Rupublican nomination hours earlier. Many in the party already saw him as the best hope for recapturing the White House. They needed him to take on Her. He was the last defense… for freedom. For liberty. It was a lot of weight on his shoulders.

    “Is your plan to double Gitmo strong enough to help us defeat the terrorists? Maybe you should have planned to triple it? What if your cowardice emboldens the terrorists, and they enact another Benghazi type attack on your watch?”

    “Oh god,” Marco gagged, and he felt his lunch coming back up. He grabbed the American flag trashcan next to the mirror, and deposited his turkey club sandwich from earlier.

    “You’re too nervous. If you can’t handle this, how will you take on her campaign?”

    Marco cleared the bile taste out of his mouth with a swig from an American Flag decorated water bottle. He felt better already. The butterflies were dissipating.

    “I can beat her. After all, I beat Charlie Crist… and he was a beloved titan of the political game. Nobody gave me a shot over well loved Charlie… and I won.” Marco felt his confidence growing back. He nodded at his reflection.

    “We’ll see….”

    Marco flashed that winning smile at himself. Gosh, this water was refreshing.

    “Here comes your first test. The lion’s den.

    “I can do it,” Marco nodded. His first night of the campaign was face to face with patriot, savant… handsome genius Sean Hannity. It was sure to be a no-holds-barred, hostile interview. But Marco was ready. He was sure he was. After this interview, even staring down Putin would be easy.

    “Ok, Senator, it’s time,” Blondie was back to collect Marco from the green room.

    “Let’s do it,” Marco said triumphantly. You could barely hear the nervous squeak in his voice.

    “Hey, who were you talking to in here?” the girl asked, as Marco headed out.

    “Nobody,” said the candidate.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I was a bit concerned that the number of GOP candidates would just keep rising, but of course the number will be limited by the number of billionaires in the market for a pet, er, candidate.

  4. Tillman says:

    Still think he’s the sociopathic candidate we all dread in the dark of our minds.

  5. EddieInCA says:

    Three weeks, three leaders.


    Let’s see what next week brings.

    I can’t wait to see the stage for the first GOP televised debate. There might be 15 men/women on stage.

    If you’re Rick Perry, at what point do you say “These guys? I can beat THESE guys!”

    Lindsay Graham?
    Mike Pence?

    Who’s next to enter?

  6. grumpy realist says:

    @EddieInCA: That’s the problem. This is the political equivalent of reading a piece of pulp fiction and saying to yourself “Geez, I could write better than that…”

  7. Jeremy R says:

    I think he has a decent shot at being selected as the eventual nominee’s VP. I don’t see him getting the top of the ticket though as the base doesn’t seem to have completely forgiven his Immigration Reform heresy (followed by his total reversal and repudiation of it).

  8. jewelbomb says:

    His “New American Century” slogan seems particularly misguided to me. Doesn’t it pretty explicitly evoke a prominent bit of negative neo-con baggage that most of American wants to put out of our mind.

  9. CB says:


    The sad truth is that of the minority that even understand what that slogan represents, the majority agree with it, and want more of it. I can’t really come to any other conclusion at this point.

  10. MikeSJ says:

    This makes sense if you think of it as a result of the process of elimination.

    Christie? Everyone is waiting for the indictments to land. There’s a not insignificant chance he’ll be in jail this time next year.

    Rand? The weirdo dial is in the red zone with him. Plus his baggage has baggage. If he was a real contender his interviews with Alex Jones will get aired and it’ll be lights out.

    Walker? Part of me thinks he’s a real candidate who can beat Jeb but I can’t get over the time share salesman vibe from him. He just reeks of two bit sleaziness. I think he doesn’t go anywhere.

    Cruz? I had to look up “oleaginous” since this was used so often to describe him. Nobody wants to have a beer with him.

    Perry? Please. I have some issues with him but I keep forgetting what they are.

    Huckabee? He wont get beyond the evangelical base and the business community hates him.

    That leaves Rubio as the last man standing against Jeb. Who knows? I think in the end Jeb wins but if the base hates Jeb enough and Rubio has a Sugar Daddy who funds him he could get over the finish line.

  11. Tillman says:

    @MikeSJ: It will come down to how much the Republican base is willing to tread again the decade before this one. Jeb is inevitably going to be contrasted with his brother; it’ll be a matter of timing more than anything else. Either the contrast will be made in the primary, or in the general. If it’s made in the primary, the Republicans emerge stronger if only for the slight amount of introspection. If it’s made in the general, I imagine Hillary wins if only due to her last name being associated with a brighter decade in people’s memories.

    Off-topic aside, I’ve never known before now how much I want to stand in front of a wall with endless repetitions of my own name in Helvetica.

  12. charon says:


    “… most of American …”

    I doubt that. The letters PNAC mean something to me, but my guess hardly any voters pay enough attention to recognize them.

  13. Neil Hudelson says:


    cd6’s last post took place during Hannity’s interview. Now this, taking place right before.

    I think we are seeing the start of a multi-month project, documenting Rubio’s political rise Benjamin Button style.

    Can’t wait for more.

  14. Pete S says:

    @EddieInCA: And the more people on stage at the debate, the more outrageous the fringe candidates will have to be to even get noticed!

  15. DrDaveT says:


    I’ve never known before now how much I want to stand in front of a wall with endless repetitions of my own name in Helvetica.

    If you go to heaven, your name is written in the Book of Life in Garamond, or Palatino, or Goudy Old Style. If you go to hell, it’s Helvetica. (Or worse yet, Arial.)

  16. charon says:


    “”Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran.”

    Given Rubio’s expressed foreign policy positions, “A New American Century” is possibly a deliberate dogwhistle to neocons.

  17. Tillman says:

    @DrDaveT: I don’t believe in hell. Undermines the omnibenevolence. I believe in a purgatorial period of no more than a year or ten’s subjective time in which we’re all forced to endure Wingdings 2, as we should for being so sinful in thinking Lucida Handwriting is legible at all.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Is this focus on meaningless polling for an election that is 19 months away going to be a daily thing from now on?

    If so, can we get some polling about who will win next year’s World Series? I’d like to get my bets placed early.

    Thanks 😀

  19. michael reynolds says:


    Off-topic aside, I’ve never known before now how much I want to stand in front of a wall with endless repetitions of my own name in Helvetica.

    I’ve done a version of that — on some school visits they put up banners and pictures of me. It’s meant to be flattering but always kind of creeps me out. I have that moment of thinking, “You people have no idea what disappointment lies in your near future.” Anyone who sees their name up on a wall or in a banner and actually enjoys the experience should probably be disqualified from holding public office.

  20. CB says:


    No doubt.

  21. Anonne says:

    Cream of the crap!