Laying aside the inconvenient fact that presidential polls this far out from 2016 are meaningless, what’s the biggest news here? That Christie’s strong enough to now lead Her Majesty in a state where she, er, finished third in 2008? Or that Rand Paul, who’s supposed to be a niche candidate, is competitive with her despite her near universal name recognition?
Actually, the biggest news is that Iowans are lukewarm about Hillary. Every Republican polled here draws a chunk of don’t-knows when people are asked how they’d do as president, but nearly everyone has an opinion about Hillary. She does well — more than half (53/42) say she’d make a good chief exec — but Republicans like Christie and Paul must be benefiting from considerable “Not Hillary” sentiment to some extent. Beyond that, I think the biggest news is Jeb Bush. If he jumps in, he and Christie will battle to be crowned the establishment’s designated “centrist problem-solver.” You would think, given Bush’s own name recognition, that either the two would poll relatively evenly in Iowa or Bush would have a slight advantage. Nope.
More Republicans think Jeb would be a better president than Christie would, but Christie destroys him among independents and, at 33 percent, has a bigger share of the opposing party’s voters willing to vouch for him than any other candidate mentioned by Quinnipiac. (Hillary’s a distant second, with 19 percent of Republicans saying she’d make a good president.) At 31/45, Bush actually does quite a bit worse among indies than the supposedly unelectable Paul does. Maybe that’s his surname scaring people off or maybe it’s something else, but GOP donors will be keeping an eye on it.
The other wrinkle to Christie’s numbers is how well he does with traditionally Democratic groups. Quinnipiac didn’t split its numbers by race but it did split them by gender and age. Head to head with Hillary, Christie’s the only Republican who holds her to less than a 20-point lead among women. She leads him by 10 versus Paul by 21, Cruz by 23, and Bush by 24(!). The age data is even more interesting: Rand Paul does as well as Christie does against Hillary among voters age 18 to 29, but once you leave that group, he starts to tail off while Christie remains strong. Compare:
That’s something else GOP donors will be watching. It may be true that Paul’s views on civil liberties and the drug war play better with young adults than traditional Republican positions do, but what is he giving up among older voters by taking them? You would at least want him to win the 18 to 29 group going away to make it worth taking a chance on him. Not here, not yet.
One other tidbit: When asked if Ted Cruz would make a good president, voters overall split 28/42 and Republicans split 55/16. The latter number’s not bad, especially given how many voters haven’t formed an opinion yet, but that’s the second underwhelming poll from Iowa for him this week. Given how well he’s been received there, maybe it’s a simple matter of things taking off once he’s on the trail. Even now, his numbers are way better than Joe Biden’s: When asked if Diamond Joe would make a good president, voters split … 29/62, with even Democrats splitting just 55/33. Oof.