Rand Paul is the 2016 Republican frontrunner

Despite his organizational strength, Ron Paul’s libertarian views capped his support in Iowa, preventing him from winning over more traditional conservatives. But in 2016, Rand Paul will be less of an ideological outlier than his father was in 2012. That’s partly because he has avoided some of his father’s edgier views. (He’s more supportive of foreign aid and sanctions against Iran, for instance.) And it’s partly because more Republicans now share his suspicion of the national-security state. Last summer, more than 40 percent of House Republicans voted to curb NSA data collection. “Rand has a much broader appeal than his father,” Robinson says. Polls reflect that: A survey last December for the Des Moines Register found Paul with a lower unfavorability rating among Iowa Republicans than either Christie or Jeb Bush.

If Paul is, arguably, the early leader in Iowa, he may be the early frontrunner in New Hampshire as well. While Ron Paul placed third in Iowa in 2012, he placed second in New Hampshire, losing only to Mitt Romney, the former governor of neighboring Massachusetts and a national frontrunner with a vast financial edge. Even before Bridgegate, Christie would have struggled to match Romney’s success. Dante Scala, associate professor of political science at the University of New Hampshire, notes that in 2012 Romney had two advantages that Christie won’t have this time around. First, he had a preexisting network in the state, built during his 2008 run. Second, since he was no longer a sitting governor, he had virtually unlimited time to campaign.