He may have his prickly moments with the news media, but Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) appears to be connecting with voters in key battleground states as he launches his bid for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.
A new Quinnipiac University poll shows Paul, a favorite of libertarians and the Tea Party, ahead of Hillary Clinton in hypothetical matchups in Colorado and Iowa, while he barely trails the former Secretary of State in Virginia.
- COLORADO: Paul 44 - Clinton 41
- IOWA: Paul 43 - Clinton 42
- VIRGINIA: Clinton 47 - Paul 43
Related: Voters Question Clinton’s Honesty and Trustworthiness in New Poll
The poll also shows that Clinton continues to lose altitude with many voters. While she’s the odds-on favorite to become the 2016 Democratic nominee, she could be very vulnerable in a general election regardless of the GOP nominee, the Quinnipiac analysis shows.
A previous Quinnipiac poll of likely voters in Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania showed that while most consider her a strong leader, about half question her honesty and trustworthiness. That mid-February survey suggests the recent controversy over Clinton’s use of personal e-mail to conduct State Dept. business and her deletion of tens of thousands of messages she deemed personal has hurt her standing.
One bright spot for Clinton in Thursday’s survey: In Virginia, the largest of the three states, she leads all Republicans, including Paul, former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.
“These numbers are a boost for [Paul] as he formally launches his campaign,” Peter A. Brown with the Quinnipiac University Poll said in a statement. “Ominous for Hillary Clinton is the broad scope of the movement today compared to her showing in Quinnipiac University’s mid-February survey. He noted the political furor over her e-mail clearly is hurting her. “It isn’t just one or two Republicans who are stepping up; it’s virtually the entire GOP field that is running better against her,” he added.
Related: 14 Things You Never Knew About Rand Paul
The poll was done between March 29 and April 7, the day Paul formally launched his candidacy at a jubilant event in Kentucky – and before he began clashing with journalists over tough questions about his policies.
In the presidential race in Colorado, Paul gets 44 percent to Clinton’s 41 percent, while other Republicans are effectively tied as well in hypothetical matchups. Colorado voters say by a margin of 56 percent to 38 percent that Clinton is not honest and trustworthy. Her e-mail controversy is “very important” or “somewhat important” as an issue in their vote, 51 percent of voters say – while 49 percent say it is “not so important” or “not important at all.”
In Iowa, Paul leads Clinton, 43 percent to 42 percent, while other likely Republican candidates including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former Florida governor Jeb Bush either were tied with Clinton or were close behind.
In Virginia, Clinton leads the entire potential GOP field. She would beat Paul in head-to-head competition, 47 percent to 43 percent, and she enjoys even bigger leads over Bush and Walker, the two presumed frontrunners.
Related: GOP 2016: Scott Walker Has the Lead, Jeb Bush Has the Money
In a matchup with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) – who formally announced his campaign a week ago and sparked Super PAC fundraising of an astonishing $31 million – Clinton comes out on top, 49 percent to 39 percent.
In Louisville earlier this week, Rand Paul vowed to “take back America” from special interests and to lead the nation on a new, more libertarian and conservative pathway. Once he hit the road, however, his soaring rhetoric began to sour as he repeatedly clashed with reporters and TV anchors over his shifting stands on foreign policy, defense and domestic policies.
On Tuesday, hours after his campaign launch, Paul bridled at a question from Fox News host Sean Hannity about a 2007 statement he made. He had dismissed as “ridiculous” the idea that Iran posed a threat to U.S. security. “You know, things do change over time,” responded Paul, who recently signed a letter with 46 other GOP senators aimed at derailing a U.S.-Iranian early framework to block Tehran’s development of a nuclear weapon.
Later, Paul clashed with Savannah Guthrie of NBC’s Today program; she posed similar questions about Paul’s flip-flopping on foreign policy to overcome a reputation for being an isolationist. “Before we go through a litany of things you say I’ve changed on, why don’t you ask me a question: ‘Have I changed my opinion?’ That would sort of be a better way to approach an interview,” Paul told Guthrie.
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