Republican Race Remains Tight, Clinton Continues To Dominate General Election Polling

The GOP race remains tight, but some candidates have benefited from their entry into the race more than others. Overall, though, Hillary Clinton continues to dominate.

election-2016

One of the first national polls conducted after the wave of Presidential campaign announcements that began last month with Ted Cruz’s speech at Liberty University shows that, while there has been some movement in the wake of the announcements, the GOP race remains tight and Hillary Clinton remains both a prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination and leading in General Election match-ups:

With the ranks of declared 2016 presidential candidates growing, a new CNN/ORC poll finds the contests for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations solidifying around two key points: Hillary Clinton dominates everyone on the Democratic side, while no one has broken out of the pack on the Republican side.

The recent formal entries into the Republican race by Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have stirred up the GOP field somewhat, but still, no clear leader has emerged. The new poll finds Jeb Bush has held on to the top spot among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, but Bush’s edge is slight and there are multiple contenders for the nomination who could overtake him with just a small increase in support at the same time that some previously strong contenders have faded.

Overall, 17% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents back Bush for the GOP nomination, while 12% support Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Paul and Rubio stand at 11% each, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 9% and Cruz at 7%. Former neurosurgeon Ben Carson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, both of whom placed second in CNN/ORC polls as recently as last fall, are now well behind the leader at 4% each.

Bush’s edge in the nomination contest extends across several attributes viewed as key to winning the presidency. He is most often named as the candidate with the right experience to be president (27%), as the one with the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee in the general election next November (26%) and as the strongest leader in the large field of GOP contenders (21%). He is also more often seen as the candidate with the clearest vision for the country’s future (19%), who cares the most about people like you (18%), and who most closely shares your values (19%).

On one metric, however, Bush has an emerging challenger. While 18% see Bush as the candidate who best represents the future of the Republican Party, the same share say fellow Floridian Rubio is the best representation of the GOP’s future. Paul, at 10%, is the only other candidate in double digits on this question.

The poll suggests Rubio’s campaign rollout has helped raise his profile in the party, boosting him into the top five in the overall race for the GOP nomination. But sustaining that momentum through the many campaign rollouts to come could be a challenge.

Cruz’s announcement raised his numbers among Tea Party backers, but he has shown little improvement elsewhere. Among tea party supporters, Cruz and Walker tie for the top slot at 15%, Rubio follows at 14%, Paul 12%, and Bush 11% with the rest in single digits. In a March CNN/ORC poll, Cruz had just 6% among Tea Party backers, Walker had 22%.

Cruz and Walker’s tea party strength seems to rest on their credentials as strong leaders, perhaps burnished by their high-profile stands on Obama’s health care overhaul in the Senate and labor issues in Wisconsin, respectively: 21% of tea party Republicans call Cruz the strongest leader in the field, 16% say Walker is.

The poll finds little sign of an announcement bump for Paul.

In Paul’s case, actually, the CNN/ORC poll that was taken before he got in the race had him at 12%, so he’s actually gone down in the polls, although the 1% difference is within the margin of error so it’s statistically insignificant. Paul was alone  among the announced candidate sin not getting something of a poll bump, however. Ted Cruz went from 4% to 7% and Marco Rubio went from 7% to 11%. Among the other candidates at the top of the pack, Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, neither of whom have officially announced their candidacy as of yet, are basically at the same point there were in previous polls so, at the very least, they haven’t really lost any ground in the wake of the announcements by Cruz, Paul, and Rubio. This one poll hasn’t had much impact on the polling averages, of course, where Bush remains in the lead followed by Walker, Cruz, Paul, Rubio and Huckabee, but that is likely to change as other pollsters release a new round of national polls that take into account the new entrants to the race.

As usual, a poll taken this early should be taken with a grain of salt and it certainly doesn’t give us any predictive insight. At the same time, though, it does suggest a few themes that are likely to shape the race for the GOP nomination going forward. At least initially, it would appear from these and other numbers that we’ve seen so far that Rand Paul’s appeal could be limited to a relatively small percentage of Republican voters. This wouldn’t be surprising given Paul’s generally libertarian views and foreign policy positions are generally out of step with the Republican Party as a whole, of course, and it provides a good explanation for why he has been downplaying some of those positions recently while simultaneously trying to appeal to social conservatives and other groups in the GOP that are likely to view him with suspicion.  As a contrast to Paul, Texas Senator Ted Cruz has clearly seen his stock rise since entering the race the last month, something that is due in no small part to the fact that he is largely in line with the Tea Party and hardcore right base of the Republican Party. There are other candidates who will be competing for that vote, of course, but getting in the race early may have given Cruz an advantage that will be hard for others to blunt. Finally, even though this poll was taken mere days after he entered the race, Marco Rubio seems to be the one candidate among the three who have entered the race who could be most likely to compete as part of the GOP’s top tier along with his fellow Floridian Jeb Bush. It will be interesting to see if these trends continue as the race goes along.

While the race on the Republican side remains tight and uncertain, the race for the Democratic nomination seems to be over already:

Clinton declared her candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president with a web video and promptly hit the road to Iowa and New Hampshire. Her campaign begins in an extremely strong position among Democrats nationwide: nearly 7 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support her. Overall, 69% back the former secretary of state over Vice President Joe Biden (11%), Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (5%), former Virginia senator Jim Webb (3%), former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee (1%) and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley (1%). Clinton is also the second choice of just over half of the Democrats who prefer someone else for the nomination. All told, Clinton is the first or second choice of 83% of the potential Democratic electorate.

Any possible Democratic competitors face a steep uphill battle in trying to draw support away from Clinton. Democrats are broadly enthusiastic about a Clinton candidacy, far more than they are for any other potential nominee. Overall, 58% of Democrats say they would be enthusiastic if she won the party’s nomination. About a quarter say they would be enthusiastic about a Biden nomination (26%) while 11% say so about Sanders, 7% Webb, 6% O’Malley and 2% Chafee.

And, when you put Clinton head to head with her potential Republican opponents, she continues to dominate:

Marco Rubio fares best against the former first lady, trailing Clinton by 14 points, 55% to 41%. Bush trails Clinton by 17 points, 56% to 39%. Christie and Paul fall 19 points behind Clinton, each putting up 39% to Clinton’s 58%. Huckabee, Walker, Carson and Cruz each trail Clinton by more than 20 points.

 There’s not much value in the General Election matchup polling, of course. Yes, it does show that if the election were held today, Clinton would win no matter who the Republican nominee is, but as Philip Bump notes, the election is not being held today, and it will not be held for another nineteen months. There is much that will happen between now and then that will have an impact on the race. Both sides will have up days and down days, and, most importantly, the polling will begin to narrow at some point just as it always have. Given how each of our last four Presidential elections have gone, it’s unlikely Clinton would win a General Election by double digits in the popular vote. If she did, then it would lead to the kind of landslide we haven’t seen in this country since Ronald Reagan was re-elected in 1984. It’s more likely that if she does win, it will be be a margin not too dissimilar from the ones Barack Obama saw in 2008 and 2012, possibly even closer. If a Republican wins, it’s likely to be my a much closer margin in both the popular vote in both the Popular Vote and the Electoral College.

All of that being said, it’s rather obvious that Clinton is heading into this race with a huge advantage, both because of her own personal popularity and the Democratic Party’s advantage in the Electoral College. If she is able to maintain that over the next year and a half, then she likely will be elected President.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, Hillary Clinton, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds 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. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. grumpy realist says:

    So we really are going to have Snow White and the Seven Dwarves?

  2. C. Clavin says:

    According to the latest Quinnipiac Polling it doesn’t look like Christie could even carry New Jersey in the General.
    http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/new-jersey/release-detail?ReleaseID=2219

  3. michael reynolds says:

    I’ll make the same point I’ve made before: Hillary has 100% name recognition, 100% familiarity, and is sitting on at least 55% of the vote. Those are incumbent numbers, and if we said an incumbent president was well above the 50% line we’d think he/she was pretty near unbeatable.

    Who is going to come zooming in out of right field and take her down? The dynamic Mr. Bush? Child Rubio? The obnoxious Mr. Walker? What are any of them selling that is going to cause Hillary to lose a minimum of one out of ten of her current supporters?

  4. Jack says:

    2016 Democrat field so far looks like an AARP convention, minus the Viagra.

  5. C. Clavin says:

    It’ still a long way out.
    Republicans still have plenty of time to con the dupes into believing that tax cuts for the 1% will grow the middle class economy…and that we need to go to war with Iran as Israel’s proxy.

  6. Jack says:

    @C. Clavin: Meanwhile, the Democrat party will continue to push the idea that vast portions of the federal government are necessary to force millions of people to guarantee the well-being of people they have never met, and whose wants and needs (let alone lives) they had no role in creating–to get more votes.

  7. C. Clavin says:

    @Jack:
    What does that gibberish even mean???
    For starters, there is no such thing as the Democrat Party. It doesn’t exist. When someone like you uses this grammatically incorrect epithet it merely identifies you as a mindless follower of the cult…or gang…someone who bows down before idiots like Limbaugh and Breitbart and Palin.

  8. DrDaveT says:

    @Jack:

    vast portions of the federal government are necessary to force millions of people

    The federal government has exactly three “vast portions”:
    1. The Department of Defense
    2. Medicare/Medicaid
    3. Social Security

    The other 2/5 are “servicing the debt” and “everything else”. No single agency has more than about 10% of “everything else”. So where, exactly, are you finding those vast coercive forces?

  9. C. Clavin says:

    @DrDaveT:
    So…then…I guess what he means by

    vast portions of the federal government are necessary to force millions of people to guarantee the well-being of people they have never met

    is that, for instance, the Defense Department (a vast portion of Govt) is necessary to force taxpayers (millions of people) to guarantee the well-being of Defense Contractors (whom the millions of taxpayers have never met).
    OK…that makes some sense.

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @Jack:

    Jeb Bush (62) is five years younger than Hillary Clinton (67).

    But take a look at the actuarial tables and you’ll see that Hillary is likely to outlive Jeb by about four years.

  11. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    There you go again…trying to reason with someone who doesn’t come to his beliefs thru reason.

  12. michael reynolds says:

    @C. Clavin:

    Let’s take a guess as to Jack’s favorite president. Would it be Ronald Reagan? Reagan who was the same age as Hillary upon taking office, but as a man older in relative terms?

  13. C. Clavin says:
  14. C. Clavin says:

    @michael reynolds:
    And he had friggin’ Alzheimer’s!!!

  15. anjin-san says:

    @Jack:

    Sounds like you are saying a man that was as old as Reagan should never have been elected President.

  16. An Interested Party says:

    And he had friggin’ Alzheimer’s!!!

    Perhaps Jack suffers from a similar ailment…that would certainly explain what he typed…

  17. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    In Paul’s case, actually, the CNN/ORC poll that was taken before he got in the race had him at 12%, so he’s actually gone down in the polls, although the 1% difference is within the margin of error so it’s statistically insignificant. Paul was alone among the announced candidate sin not getting something of a poll bump, however. Ted Cruz went from 4% to 7% and Marco Rubio went from 7% to 11%.

    The margin of error is 4.5 points for the Republican sub group.
    So there’s no statistically significant bump for Cruz or Rubio either.

    More, Bush may be in the lead, but so may also Walker, Paul, Rubio, and Huckabee. Again, the margin of error is 4.5 points.
    It is a clown car after all.

    Things not within the margin of error:
    Clinton’s lead among the Democrats.
    Clinton’s lead against any of the Republicans. (and for those questions the margin of error is 3 points.)

    Also fun, the sub group “Republicans under the age of 50” in the sample is so small that the margin of error is greater than 8.5 points, which means that the results for that sub group aren’t shown among the crosstabs.

  18. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @PJ:

    Exactly. There is essentially no front runner on the GOP side, and that usually results in one thing – a long and drawn out, bitterly fought internecine warfare flavored GOP primary cycle. Whoever the GOP nominates, he will emerge from the primaries weakened, badly situated with respect to the general electorate on most policy issues and damaged in a variety of ways.

    Contrast that with Clinton, who will be nominated by the Dems by something very close to acclamation and emerge unscathed, well funded and primed for war.

    Dems couldn’t have dreamed up a more beneficial scenario for their party if they had been handed the reins of the Republican primaries.

  19. Pete S says:

    It seems to me that any Republican candidate is going to have trouble distinguishing himself when they all know what they need to say to appeal to the base. And if we have the same kind of winter next year as we had this year, only the most fervent base voters will be attending the primaries and caucuses in the north.

    (I feel safe saying himself, there is no way the Republicans will allow a woman candidate to take a central role in this campaign because she would be constantly publicly smacking herself in the forehead when she hears the sexist nonsense being directed at Hilary Clinton by her colleagues).

  20. charon says:

    @PJ:

    I think you have a flawed understanding of what “margin of error” really means and how much it matters. It really does not negate the significance of a measured lead as much as you appear to think.

  21. PJ says:

    @charon:
    Feel free to educate me.

  22. Barry says:

    @michael reynolds: “The dynamic Mr. Bush? ”

    Don’t misunderestimate him. Charles ‘The Wise Man’ Cooke, over on Buckley’s rag, said that the GOP should run against the past 16 years.

    Jeb is already criticizing President Obama for not breaking the treaty that Jeb’s brother negotiated – not that Jeb will ever admit that his brother was responsible.

  23. Barry says:

    @C. Clavin: “Republicans still have plenty of time to con the dupes into believing that tax cuts for the 1% will grow the middle class economy…and that we need to go to war with Iran as Israel’s proxy.”

    Their best hope, and one which I also fear for personal reasons, is a recession. I’m sure that the GOP Congress will do their best to bring this to pass.

  24. Barry says:

    @Pete S: “(I feel safe saying himself, there is no way the Republicans will allow a woman candidate to take a central role in this campaign because she would be constantly publicly smacking herself in the forehead when she hears the sexist nonsense being directed at Hilary Clinton by her colleagues).”

    If the GOP has Carson, West, Cain and Thomas, they can come up with a woman who has no problem standing on stage and listening to the vilest sexist garbage.

    In fact, if I were running the GOP, I’d want to have a couple of women prominently displayed (VP, ‘Shadow Cabinet’) who would be the ones to say all of that – ‘it’s not sexist if a woman says it’.

  25. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @anjin-san: No, you’re missing his point. The missing Viagra is the issue, and a woman as old as Reagan should never be elected President.

  26. Just 'nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Barry:

    If the GOP has Carson, West, Cain and Thomas, they can come up with a woman who has no problem standing on stage and listening to the vilest sexist garbage.

    For example, I think Carly Fiorina is up to the task.