Let’s begin with some caveats: It’s way too early to talk about 2016. Polls change. New candidates can enter the race and scramble coalitions. And there’s that old saw about “lies, damn lies, and statistics.”
With all that out of the way, there are some interesting numbers coming out of the NH Journal’s first survey of the presidential cycle.
Hillary Clinton is, predictably, clobbering the Democratic field. But on the GOP side:
“A cluster of probable candidates trail ‘Unsure,’ which leads the pack with almost 20% of the vote. Next come Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul with just over 19%, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie with 17.5% and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio with just over 13%.”
Again, it’s early and a lot of voters (20 percent) are obviously undecided. Others will change their minds as new candidates emerge or new information comes to light. Politics does not exist in a vacuum. If Rand Paul looks poised to win New Hampshire, you can be sure everyone else will gang up on him, etc.
Having said that, an obvious takeaway here is just how well Rand Paul is positioned. It’s not impossible to imagine he could win Iowa and New Hampshire (for the aforementioned reasons, this is unlikely, but not impossible). Pulling this off, of course, would give him tremendous momentum heading into … South Carolina (where one imagines he might also do well.)
Meanwhile, some other findings in New Hampshire seem to undermine what has become conventional wisdom — that the immigration reform debate hurts its proponents in a GOP primary. Regardless of its merits, I’ve always assumed that to be true. But if you think immigration reform is going to doom Rubio, consider this:
“Sixty-eight percent of all registered voters surveyed, including 57% of Republicans, either strongly or somewhat support the reform effort. These numbers appear to contradict conventional wisdom that support for immigration reform could damage the potential presidential candidacies of those who backed it in Congress, especially Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.”
Why does this matter? On the Republican side, New Hampshire seems to be a much better predictor of success than Iowa. So while taking early survey with a grain of salt, we would all be well advised to keep a close eye on the Granite State.