Who tops Cruz in early Iowa 2016 poll?

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan is the most popular of the would-be 2016 Republican contenders among Iowa Republicans, handily outstripping his potential competition in the state that holds the first nominating contest every four years, according to a new poll.

The Des Moines Register poll, conducted by Selzer & Co. and released Sunday found that a whopping 73 percent of Iowa Republicans hold a favorable opinion of Ryan, the House Budget Committee Chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, while just 10 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him. Among tea partiers, he is also far more popular than his competition, with 66 percent saying they view him favorably. 54 percent of born-again Christians like him; only former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is more popular among that group.

The poll surveyed Iowa adults by phone interview from December 8 through December 11, meaning most of the interviews were completed by the time Ryan announced the budget deal he co-authored with Democratic Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray on Dec. 10. The Des Moines Register reported that several people interviewed after the deal was announced said that while they were not fans of the plan, they still felt Ryan was “a true conservative” and it did not affect their opinion of him. (RELATED: Conservatives stand by Ryan even as they knock his budget)

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, on the other hand, sits at the bottom of the pack. Just 46 percent of Iowa Republicans say they have a favorable view of him, compared to 17 percent who hold an unfavorably view. Despite frequent trips to the state in recent months, he is still not well known to many Republicans: 37 percent still say they are unsure of what they think of Cruz.

Cruz is tied with another Senate Republican: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is also viewed favorably by just 46 percent of Iowa Republicans. 15 percent say they view him unfavorably. Rubio’s role in crafting a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the Senate earlier this year has been cited as a mark against him by some Iowa Republicans.

Huckabee, the 2008 winner of the Iowa caucuses, is the most well-liked behind Ryan, with 66 percent of Iowa Republicans sporting a favorable opinion of him, and just 17 percent holding an unfavorable opinion. He is by far the most popular with born-again Christians, a group that helped propel him to his victory five years ago, with 60 percent saying they view him favorably. He is also well-liked among tea partiers: 63 percent have a positive opinion of him. Huckabee, who has not been a mainstay in conversations about 2016, pushed his way into the fray last week when he announced he was seriously considering a run and released polling from his longtime pollster showing him performing well in Iowa and South Carolina. (RELATED: Huckabee attacked as he hints at 2016 run for president)

The 2012 caucus victor, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, is in third place with a favorable rating of 58 percent and an unfavorable rating of 21 percent.

Right behind him is Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who finished a disappointing fifth place in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, but is viewed favorably by 55 percent of Iowa Republicans and unfavorably by 19 percent.

In the middle of the pack are former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, all of whom are viewed favorably by 51 percent of Iowa Republicans. Christie has the highest unfavorability of any Republican tested at 30 percent. Bush’s unfavorables are at 26 percent and Paul’s are at 23 percent.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker gets 46 percent favorable and 11 percent unfavorable in the poll, giving him, like Cruz and Rubio, room to grow among caucusgoers who still remain largely unsure what they think about him.

On the Demcoratic side, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the clear favorite, as she is in almost all 2016 polls of Democrats, with huge 89 percent seeing her favorably and just seven percent viewing her unfavorably. Vice President Joe Biden is well-liked by 71 percent of Democrats.

The poll surveyed 650 Iowa adults. For Republicans, the margin of error is plus or minus 7.3 percentage points. For Democrats, it is plus or minus 8 percentage points.

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