A pair of recent public opinion polls uncover the still-unsettled nature of the Republican presidential field, with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who hasn’t even officially declared his candidacy, leading the field in one national poll, while Republican Sen. Marco Rubio appears to offer the biggest threat to the presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in three key swing states.
In a national poll of Republican primary voters released yesterday, Public Policy Polling found Walker leading the pack with 17 percent of voters, with former Florida governor Jeb Bush behind at 15 percent, and Rubio in third at 13 percent.
“Small though the lead may be, this is the fourth consecutive national survey we've done where we found Walker out in front,” PPP noted. “Walker continues to lead thanks largely due to his strength with voters who identify themselves as ‘very conservative.’”
Conducted in the days before he officially announced his candidacy, the poll showed at least some positive results for Bush.
“The poll is mixed news for Bush. On one hand he's the only candidate who's really gained in support over the last month, going from 11 percent to 15 percent,” PPP said. “Everyone else is within 1 or 2 points of where they were in the polls a month ago. On the other hand he actually starts out with a negative favorability rating among GOP primary voters- only 37 percent see him favorably to 40 percent with an unfavorable view.”
Bush isn’t the only GOP candidate whose approval numbers are upside down with the very people he wants to persuade to vote for him. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the poll found, has a 49 percent unfavorable rating compared to just 26 percent favorable. Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who officially entered the race yesterday, is viewed unfavorably by 43 percent of Republicans and favorably by 38 percent.
However, in U.S. presidential elections, the overall popular vote can be less important than a candidate’s ability to marshal support in key swing states. According to a poll released by Quinnipiac College today, the Republican best-positioned to go up against Clinton in the key battlegrounds of Florida and Pennsylvania is Rubio.
That said, the Florida senator loses to Clinton in his home state, just not by as much as his rivals. In Florida, for example, Quinnipiac has Rubio losing to Clinton 47-44. Bush comes close, at 46-42, and Rand Paul managed to keep the deficit to the single digits, 46-39. But all of the other announced Republican hopefuls trailed by 10 points or more.
In Pennsylvania, Rubio tops Clinton 44-43, but so does Ran Paul, who wins 45-44.
Ohio, the definitive purple state in recent presidential elections, is a special case. The state’s current governor, John Kasich, now in his second term and enjoying high popularity ratings, is expected to get into the race. Should he do so, the early polling from Quinnipiac suggests that he could hold it against all comers, beating Clinton 47-40, and performing better than all other potential GOP contenders.
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