Two familiar Republican faces, former presidential nominee Mitt Romney and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, lead the crowded field of potential candidates for the GOP nomination in 2016. Looking at what Republicans and Republican leaning independents want in a nominee, close to two thirds prefer a candidate who stands on conservative principles rather than a nominee who can win. However, there has been a slight shift in opinion toward selecting a nominee with a viable chance of winning the White House.
On the Democratic side, there has been a major change in what the Democrats want in their presidential nominee. Close to six in ten Democrats and Democratic leaning independents prefer a candidate who will move the nation in a new direction and not someone who will continue the policies of President Barack Obama. One year ago, Democrats divided between charting a new course and continuing the current Democratic agenda.
What does this mean for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? If she were to seek the Presidency, Clinton is the odds-on favorite to win her party’s nomination. In several hypothetical matchups, Clinton also leads her potential Republican opponents by double digits.
But, could a third party candidate be a spoiler? Looking at a generic ballot which includes an independent choice, neither a Democrat nor a Republican has the edge. Close to one in five says they would support an independent candidate.
“Open seats often are a political free-for-all, and this one could very well end up that way,” says Dr. Lee M. Miringoff, Director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “But, right now, Clinton is in the driver’s seat both for her party’s nomination and the general election.”
- If he decided to run in the 2016 Republican primary, former GOP nominee Mitt Romney would be the choice of 19% of Republicans and Republican leaning independents to represent his party. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush receives 14% of the vote. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee each has the support of 9% while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson garners 8%. Five percent are for Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Texas Governor Rick Perry each garners 4% while Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker each receives 3%. Ohio Governor John Kasich has the support of 2% while Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and former business executive Carly Fiorina each has the backing of 1%. More than one in ten, 13%, is undecided.
- Without Romney in the primary, Bush takes over the lead with 16% of Republicans and Republican leaning independents followed by Huckabee with 12% and Christie with 10%. Carson receives 8%, Ryan garners 7%, and Paul has 6%. Cruz and Perry each has the support of 5% followed by Rubio, Walker, Kasich, and Santorum with 3% each. One percent is for Jindal, and the same proportion, 1%, supports Fiorina. Nearly one in five, 18%, is undecided.
- By nearly two to one, Republicans and Republican leaning independents, 64%, report it is more important to have a nominee who will stand on conservative principles than it is to have a nominee for president who can win. Last December, 67% thought the priority was to have a nominee who stood on conservative principles (Trend).
- Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite in the Democratic primary. 62% of Democrats and Democratic leaning independents support the former Secretary of State. Vice President Joe Biden is a distant second with 11% while Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has 9%. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont receives 4%. Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has 1% as does former Senator Jim Webb of Virginia. 11% are undecided.
- Nearly six in ten Democrats and Democratic leaning independents, 58%, think it’s more important to have a nominee who will move the nation in a new direction while 38% want someone who will continue President Barack Obama’s policies. This is a major shift since last December when Democrats divided. 46% said they wanted a candidate who would go in a new direction, and 49% reported they wanted a continuation of Obama’s policies (Trend).
Clinton Bests GOP Rivals by Double Digits
- Clinton, 53%, has a 12 point lead against Romney, 41%, among registered voters nationally. Six percent are undecided. Clinton, 53%, outpaced Romney, 44%, by 9 points in February (Trend).
- Twelve points also separate Clinton, 53%, from Christie, 41%. Six percent are undecided. Clinton, 51%, outdistanced Christie, 42%, by 9 points in October (Trend).
- Clinton, 53%, is up by 13 points over Bush, 40%. Seven percent are undecided. In October, Clinton, 53%, was ahead of Bush, 42%, by 11 points (Trend).
- Clinton has the support of 54% of voters to 40% for Paul. Six percent are undecided. Clinton, 52%, had a 9 point lead over Paul, 43%, earlier in the fall (Trend).
- Looking at a generic ballot which includes a choice for an independent candidate, neither the Democratic candidate, 37%, nor the Republican candidate, 35%, has the advantage among registered voters. 17% of voters would support an independent candidate. 12% are undecided.