Rand Paul top pick for Republicans in 2016

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul is Republicans’ top choice to be their next presidential nominee, a poll released Thursday found.

The Public Policy Polling poll found Paul leading with 16 percent of Republican primary voters saying they would vote for him if the election were today. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan tie for second place with 13 percent. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is at 12 percent, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio trails at 10 percent.

Four percent of primary voters said they would vote for Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, four percent for former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, and two percent for New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez.

Paul does well with somewhat conservative and very conservative voters. But very conservative voters are most fond of Cruz, who is the top choice for 20 percent of them. Rubio’s fortunes with those voters, by contrast, have fallen: just eight percent say he is their first pick.

There has been some reshuffling since PPP’s last poll in May, most dramatically in the changing fortunes of Cruz and Rubio. In the May poll, Rubio led the field with 16 percent, followed by Bush and Christie and 15 percent, and Paul at 14 percent. Ryan was at nine percent, failing to break double digits, and Cruz was at seven percent.

PPP did not ask voters about their change of opinion, but Rubio’s role in pushing forward immigration reform in the Senate in June likely contributed to his drop in the poll.

But Republicans’ favorite choices are not necessarily the most general election friendly candidates.

In a hypothetical head-to-head contest with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is the clear front-runner with support from over 50 percent of Democratic primary voters in the poll, Paul falls far short of victory: he trails Clinton 39 percent to 47 percent. Rubio would do slightly better, trailing 40 percent to 45 percent.

Christie, Bush and Ryan are stronger general election candidates against Clinton. Christie statistically ties Clinton, 42 percent to 43 percent; Bush gets 41 percent to her 44 percent; and Ryan trails 44 percent to 46 percent.

The Republican primary poll surveyed 500 Republican primary voters, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points. The Democratic primary poll surveyed 418 Democratic primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points.

The general election poll surveyed 800 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. All surveys were conducted from July 19 through July 21.

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