New leader in 2016 GOP primary field: Mike Huckabee, of course

I realize that all presidential polls this far out from election day are hot garbage but there’s no way I’m missing an opportunity to troll my Huck-hating readership as golden as this one. Two words, my friends: Huckabee/Christie?

Although Huck’s now technically the GOP frontrunner, he’s not the pol with the highest favorable rating among Republicans. That’d be Sarah Palin, who’s at 70/20 and has the highest numbers among both women and men. PPP didn’t offer her as an option in its presidential polling, presumably because they think she’s unlikely to run.

Following the controversy over his ‘Uncle Sugar’ speech Mike Huckabee has…taken the lead in the Republican primary race for 2016. He’s at 16% to 14% for Jeb Bush, 13% for Chris Christie, 11% for Rand Paul, 8% each for Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Paul Ryan, 6% for Scott Walker, and 5% for Bobby Jindal.

There’s been more movement than usual over the last month, with Huckabee and Bush each gaining 3-4 points, and Chris Christie and Ted Cruz each falling by 6 points. Cruz had been leading the field among ‘very conservative’ voters for months but in the wake of Huckabee’s press attention last week he’s taken the top spot with that group. He’s at 20% to 15% for Paul, 11% for Cruz, and 10% for Bush. In the wake of Bridgegate Christie’s supremacy with moderate voters is being challenged- a month ago he led Bush by 23 points with them, but now his advantage is down to 3 points at 28/25…

Christie’s problems are even bigger with the overall electorate though. His net favorability has dropped 27 points in a month from +12 at 43/31 to now -15 at 31/46. He’s gone from having the best numbers of the potential Republican candidates to the worst in the span of a month. Christie had been popular because of his unusual amount of appeal to Democrats and independents. But now he’s become deeply unpopular with both of those groups, dropping from 38/36 to 20/58 with the former and from 46/28 to 29/44 with the latter.

That’s a long fall for Christie, longer than I’ve seen in any other poll. Here’s his problem in a nutshell; compare his numbers among the three partisan demographics to Huckabee’s and Ted Cruz’s.


Christie’s still better liked by Democrats than his Republican rivals but only marginally so, and that margin isn’t enough to compensate for the lukewarm reception he gets from Republicans. Huckabee is +53 in his own party; Cruz, who’s lesser known, is +30; Christie is now … +10. Among independents, Christie now actually has the worst numbers of the three. It’s hard to make the case in the primaries for Mr. Electability if his supposed electability advantage in the general isn’t there.

As for Huck’s success, there’s no mystery as to what’s driving it. Older voters tend to be more socially conservative and the GOP has a lot of older voters (and Fox News watchers). The “Uncle Sugar” thing may have put him back on the 2016 radar for those people:


Say, isn’t Rand Paul supposed to be the candidate of the young? Ah well. Hard to believe a tea-party champion like Cruz might potentially be vulnerable to a more centrist social conservative like Huckabee in the primary, but the boldface part above raises the possibility — especially in Iowa. Cruz’s early-state strategy in 2016 would be the opposite of Christie’s: Christie would zero in on New Hampshire, land of the moderate “maverick,” for his big propulsive victory. Cruz the conservative would zero in on Iowa, a social-con stronghold in the primaries. If Huckabee and/or Santorum run, they could carve off enough of his support to either win themselves or allow someone like Rand Paul to sneak through. (With the possible exception of Scott Walker, Paul’s the only man in the field who’s reasonably well positioned for both Iowa and New Hampshire.) The upshot is, strange as it may seem, Paul may be rooting Huckabee or Santorum on. Cruz is the big threat to cannibalize his tea-party support; if Huck or Santo can cannibalize Cruz’s social-con support, Paul might be fine.

One more note about Cruz. He may be in a bit of a reverse-Christie position in the primaries. Here are his numbers among various stripes of Republicans:


Six other Republican candidates were included in this poll: Palin, Christie, Huckabee, Paul, Jeb Bush (who’s risen this month to fill the vacuum among centrists after Christie went sour), and Paul Ryan. Cruz is less well known than all of them, but his numbers among “moderate” Republicans are already far worse than anyone else’s at 13/37. (Next lowest are Paul, at 32/38, and Ryan, at 30/36. Among “somewhat conservative” Republicans, no other candidate is below 55 percent support except Christie, who’s at 46/32. The most popular Republican is Palin at 72/17, so this isn’t a case of center-right GOPers automatically recoiling from tea partiers. This is, I think, a reaction to Cruz’s role in the “defund” standoff that led to the shutdown. Cruz has been working hard in the media lately to defend himself from the charge that he caused it, but it may be that even centrists in his own party aren’t buying it. That’s what I mean by reverse-Christie — Christie may struggle to win conservative votes in the primary just as Cruz may struggle to win centrists. Advantage: Paul?