Via the Washington Times, this is worth blogging if only because, despite the field being ridiculously crowded, there are realistically only two or three guys who could win both Iowa and New Hampshire. Rand Paul could do it if the Ron Paul rEVOLution in both states turns out in droves, but he has yet to make a splash in early polls and he’ll face bruising attacks from the right before those states go to vote. Marco Rubio could do it but he’ll have to cobble together a plurality by clawing votes from other top-flight contenders across the spectrum — Bush, Cruz, Huckabee, and Scott Walker. If anyone’s going to do it, it’s probably Walker himself. He’s got an Iowa pedigree, executive experience, and the sort of evangelical bona fides that always plays well with Iowa Republicans. And, unlike the last two winners of the caucuses, he’s a legitimate threat to win the nomination. If you’re an Iowa social con, you could vote for Walker and feel good knowing that you really might be launching the next president into political orbit.

The latest from PPP: Walker 23, Rubio 13, Bush 12.

Walker has the highest favorability out of anyone in the field, with 59% of voters viewing him favorably to 13% who have an unfavorable view. The key to Walker’s success is that he’s winning both among voters who are most concerned about electability in the general election and among voters who are most concerned with having the most conservative candidate. Among voters who say being able to win in the general is their top priority, Walker gets 21% to edge out Marco Rubio (20%) and Jeb Bush (17%). His lead is much more emphatic among voters saying conservatism is their top priority- with them he gets 29% to 14% for Cruz, 12% for Paul, and 10% for Huckabee…

Bush’s third place finish is because he really continues to struggle with conservative voters in the key early states. Overall he only has a 38/37 favorability rating, and that’s because with those identifying themselves as ‘very conservative’ he comes in at 30/45. He only polls at 2% as the first choice for the nomination with that group, putting him in last place. He still finishes third overall due to solid performances with moderates and voters identifying as just ‘somewhat conservative.’ Bush’s 12% standing is steady though- it’s where we found him when we last polled the state a year ago as well- Iowa so far just doesn’t seem to be a very strong place for him.

A 38/37 favorable rating sounds bad until you realize that Chris Christie’s rating is … 28/50. (To put that in perspective, even Donald Trump manages 40/40.) What’s the secret to Walker’s success? Simple: He’s the guy whom every faction within the party can happily tolerate.

tp

Most candidates see their support swing, sometimes wildly, between self-identified tea partiers, opponents, and neutrals, but Walker’s putting up (relatively) big, consistent numbers across all three groups. Interestingly, although he’s perceived as a center-right candidate, his ideological base lies firmly on the right:

ideo

At 28 percent, he doubles up his closest competitor among the “very conservative” crowd. (That “closest competitor,” incidentally, is, er, Mike Huckabee, suggesting that social conservatism is strongly informing the “very conservative” demographic.) Walker also fares well among “somewhat conservative” and “moderate” Republicans, although it’s Rand Paul who leads the last group — a bit of a surprise given that he’s traditionally identified himself as a tea partier. Or maybe not such a surprise: I think Rand’s been repositioning himself as a “moderate” candidate for awhile now, knowing that he’d have trouble outflanking Cruz among conservatives. As the base has turned back towards hawkishness and the field of social cons has grown larger, Paul realized that he’s going to have all kinds of trouble peeling off tea-party votes. His new coalition is libertarians, moderates, and young adults who like his unorthodoxy on issues like sentencing reform. What that means, though, ironically, is that Paul may find himself in direct competition less with Ted Cruz, as everyone has anticipated, than with Jeb Bush for middle-of-the-roaders.

As it turns out, though, Rand isn’t the top pick of young Republicans. At least not in Iowa:

age

Only Walker and Jeb are in double digits across all three age demographics, and Jeb’s barely in double digits in two of them. One other curious footnote here: Once again we find Marco Rubio performing better with older voters than he does with younger ones. That’s not supposed to happen — the young, baby-faced, optimistic candidate is supposed to excite twentysomethings — but we saw it in last week’s CNN poll too. I still don’t understand why. Maybe Rubio’s American exceptionalism pitch has some special appeal to older Republicans that it doesn’t have for younger ones. Or maybe it’s true that younger Republicans skew libertarian and Rubio, a firm social conservative and the most outspoken hawk in the field, simply alienates them.