President Jeb Bush, anyone? Polling Republican fantasy candidates

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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In a hypothetical campaign cycle in which Republican Jeb Bush decides to run for president, the former Florida governor handily beats President Barack Obama in his home state.

In a poll conducted by Viewpoint Florida, Bush trounces Obama with 57 percent of the vote to Obama’s 38 percent. Obama retains a slim lead among younger voters ages 18 to 34. Bush is even able to dig into Obama’s base, netting just over a quarter of the Democratic vote.

Of course, as the St. Petersburg Times points out, “By the way, Jeb Bush is not running against Barack Obama.”

But it might seem like a fantasy match-up for Republicans. A Washington Post/ABC poll released today found that 12 percent of Republican voters would prefer to vote for no candidate at all than to vote for anyone currently on the possible list of Republican candidates. Mitt Romney got 16 percent of the vote in that poll; second-place Donald Trump got only 8 percent.

Moreover, WaPo/ABC found every Republican candidate, including the front-runner Mitt Romney, losing to the sitting president.

The Viewpoint Florida poll, however, polls only Florida, where Bush remains a popular former governor. Nationally, he polls less well. A Fox News poll from early February of 2011 (Bush has since stopped appearing on most pollsters’ list of candidates), found Obama beating the Florida governor by a margin of 20 points – 54 percent to 34 percent.

His approval rating among Republicans nationwide stands at 53 percent, according to a Gallup poll released April 11, 2011. He is less popular among the American public as a whole: His approval ratings are upside down with 44 percent unfavorable and 35 percent favorable.

It is a reality check for Republicans who are hoping for ‘fantasy’ candidates like Bush or New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to jump into the race. Though well liked in certain circles, they could have problems when put on a national stage.

Christie, for instance, though considered widely popular (he continues to lead in The Daily Caller/ConservativeHome Tracking Poll), has low name recognition nationwide. Gallup found that over half of the public has no opinion at all of Gov. Christie, suggesting that few of them know who he is. Among those who know who he is, in his home state of New Jersey, support for a presidential bid is low. A Rutgers-Eagleton poll released last week found that two-thirds of New Jersey voters would oppose a Christie bid for the presidency, and a PPP poll from last week found Christie losing to Obama in a head-to-head match up.