One word, my friends: RINOgeddon.
A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that Christie earns 21% support when Republican voters are asked whom they would vote for if the party’s primary in their state were held today. Florida Senator Marco Rubio runs a close second with 18% of the GOP vote, followed by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush at 16% and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul with 15% of the vote.
Congressman Paul Ryan, the unsuccessful Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012, picks up 13% of the Republican vote, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker dead last at six percent (6%). Just three percent (3%) prefer another candidate, and eight percent (8%) are undecided.
Good news for Christie-haters: He’s also leading the field — by double digits — when Republicans are asked who they’d least like to see win the nomination. (His new nemesis, Rand Paul, is a distant second.) This is why I keep thinking that, for all the slobber over his “electability,” he might be so widely and deeply disliked by a small but significant minority of righties that they end up staying home if he’s nominee and costing him the election. To be “electable” with a few percentage points’ worth of conservatives sitting out, he’d have to offset them by grabbing more centrist Democrats than expected from the Democratic nominee. How likely is that if Hillary’s the pick and Bill Clinton’s out there every day for her on the trail? Every candidate tacks toward the center after he’s nominated, but Christie would tack further than most — not just because he’s inclined to, but because he might have to in order to make up those lost conservative votes.
It’s time (already!) to stop thinking about national polls for 2016, though, and to start thinking in terms of Iowa and New Hampshire. They’re the springboards to national success, after all; if a top-flight candidate can’t play in either of them, for whatever strange reason, they won’t have any traction for South Carolina and Florida. Right, Marco Rubio?
A new Granite State Poll conducted for WMUR-TV shows Rubio, who was tied with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) for the lead in an April poll by the same pollster at 15 percent, now garners the support of just 6 percent of New Hampshire GOP primary voters, placing fifth.
Rubio’s favorable rating has also taken a hit. While in April he was viewed favorably by 59 percent and unfavorably by 8 percent, his favorable-unfavorable split is now 47-14.
The poll’s new leader is New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, at 21 percent. He is followed by Paul at 16 percent, former Florida governor Jeb Bush at 10 percent, Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) at 8 percent and Rubio at 6 percent.
Rubio’s a special case in that he’s a Florida native and could, in theory, win there even if he loses the first three major primaries, but imagine how many “Rubio disappoints again” stories will be written before then. New Hampshire is going to be even tougher than usual next time too thanks to Christie’s and Paul’s likely candidacies: Each of them, in very different ways, seems better suited to NH’s maverick-y sensibility than Rubio does. (New Hampshire will, I think, end up as ground zero for the Christie/Paul debate on national security and civil liberties.) Iowa is Rubio’s best bet and Iowa famously has a lot of social conservatives, which is why you’re seeing him sponsor that Senate abortion bill and why he made such a stink about gay marriage during the immigration debate instead of the more important stuff like, say, amnesty.
His best bet at an early primary win, then, might be to go full social con and hope that (a) caucusgoers decide that Santorum’s a lost cause this time and (b) Rand Paul somehow flames out, which is difficult to imagine given that Ron’s supporters nearly carried him to victory there last time. In fact, as strange as this sounds, I’d argue that the ostensibly fringy Paul is the guy best positioned right now to sweep Iowa and New Hampshire. He’s got the Paulites in Iowa behind him and he’s been working to woo social conservatives; he also doesn’t have Rubio’s vulnerability on immigration in Steve King country. His foreign policy views and libertarian take on spending will make him competitive in New Hampshire too, especially if he gets some momentum from winning Iowa. If he wins one or, especially, both, Beltway Republicans will shift immediately into “stop Paul” panic mode and someone — Christie, Walker, maybe Rubio — will become the designated anti-Paul establishment favorite for South Carolina and Florida. Makes me wonder if, oddly enough, that’s not Rubio’s best bet at this point. Hope Rand looks strong early and then wait for the non-libertarian segments of the party to run fleeing to him in terror as a guy who might be able to unite the center and right in overcoming Paul.
One other fun fact from the Rasmussen poll: Among Democrats, Christie is the guy they’d most like to see win the GOP nomination — and Jeb Bush, by far, is who they’d least like to see win. Shouldn’t it be the opposite? If you’re a Dem, you’d love to run against a guy named Bush, especially if you’re carrying the dynastic liability of nominating someone named Clinton. Or do Democrats really think Jeb would be that formidable in the general?