Nov 24, 2014 10:09 AM

Paul Steinhauser: New NH poll has Clinton, TBA Republican as primary frontrunners

NH1 Political Director -

CONCORD - With 15 months to go until New Hampshire's presidential primary, a new public opinion survey indicates the races for the Democratic and Republican nominations remain as different as day and night.

According to a Bloomberg Politics/Saint Anselm New Hampshire Poll released Monday, Hillary Clinton continues to be the overwhelming favorite among Granite State Democrats for their party's nomination. And the battle for the GOP nomination, sans Mitt Romney, remains a wide open field with no frontrunners. But the survey suggests that Rand Paul, Chris Christie, and Jeb Bush have a slight edge up on the rest of the potential 2016 Republican presidential contenders.

Thirty-percent of likely GOP primary voters say if the contest were held today, they'd support Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2012 Republican presidential nominee. That's no surprise, as Romney's very well known in New Hampshire and has topped previous 2016 survey's conducted earlier this year. Paul, the first term senator from Kentucky is a distant second, at 11%, with everyone else tested in single digits.

But Romney has said repeatedly that he's not planning on running a third time for the White House (his first bid for the nomination came in 2008). So let's take Romney at his word and take him out of the mix.

"This poll shows that if Romney decides not to run its a wide open race here in New Hampshire on the Republican side," Neil Levesque, executive director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, told NH1.

"We're looking at the most wide open Republican presidential primary in history," added Jim Merrill, a Manchester based GOP consultant who was a senior adviser to Romney in both of his presidential runs. "There is no front runner. There is no heir apparent. I think both Chris Christie and Rand Paul start with a head start in New Hampshire."

Paul, Christie and Bush top pack

And without Romney in the race, the new poll indicates Paul and Christie, the two-term Republican governor of New Jersey, each at 16%, with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 14%.

Paul, who seems likely to run for the nomination but says he'll announce his decision in the spring, could inherit many of his father's libertarian minded supporters. Ron Paul, the former longtime congressman from Texas, made three bids for the White House. In his last run in 2012, Paul came in a strong second to Romney in the first-in-the-nation primary, grabbing nearly 23% of the vote.

On the Republican side, the libertarian streak runs strong in the Granite State, and the poll indicates Paul with a 65% favorable rating among likely GOP primary voters, the highest favorable rating among any of the possible Republican presidential contenders.

Christie, the outgoing chairman of the Republican Governors Association, is enjoying a political bounce right now, thanks to GOP victories in this month's midterm elections in traditionally blue states such as Illinois, Maryland and Massachusetts. But Christie's occasional in-your-face style of politics may not play so well in New Hampshire. While the poll indicates the New Jersey governor has a 50% favorable rating among likely New Hampshire Republican primary voters, a third of them said they had an unfavorable view of Christie, the highest level of any potential candidate tested.

While it's likely that Paul and Christie will run for the White House, Bush is anyone's guess. The son President George HW Bush and the brother of President George W Bush, the former Florida governor's well known in New Hampshire.

Not so well known among Granite Staters is Ben Carson. The neurosurgeon turned conservative firebrand is known by only 39% of Republican primary voters. But overall, 9% say they'd support him. Carson's followed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, at 8%, with Rep. Paul Ryan, the 2012 vice presidential nominee, at 7%. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a hero to many in the tea party movement, is at 5%, with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal at 4% and outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran in 2012, at 3%. Five percent said they would back someone else and 13% were undecided.

Exit polls from Election Day also indicate Bush, Paul and Christie with a leg up on the rest of the potential field. Twenty-two percent of Republicans who voted earlier this month said they preferred Bush as their party's nominee, with Paul at 21% and Christie at 15%.

Clinton lapping the Democratic field

It's a very different story on the Democratic side.

Just like every other national and New Hampshire poll conducted before it, the new survey indicates Clinton's the overwhelming favorite for the nomination. Sixty-two percent of likely Democratic primary voters say they'd back the former secretary of state if the Granite State primary were held today. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is a distant second at 13%. Warren, who's a hero to progressive activists, has said she won't run in 2016.

Liberal Sen. Bernie Saunders of Vermont, who's made numerous trips to New Hampshire this autumn, is at 6%, with Vice President Joe Biden at 5%.

Clinton, who's considered likely to run, has said she'll announce her decision sometime early in the new year.

"On the Democratic side everything's going to hinge on what Hillary Clinton decides to do and she hasn't told us yet," Terry Shumaker, a Democratic strategist and co-chair in New Hampshire for President Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign and 1996 re-election, as well as a senior adviser for Ready for Hillary, recently told NH1.

Looking ahead to hypothetical 2016 general election matchups, the poll indicates New Hampshire voters split between Clinton and Romney, with Clinton topping Paul by seven percentage points and beating Bush by eight points.

The Bloomberg Politics/St. Anselm New Hampshire poll was conducted by Purple Insights from Nov. 12-18, with 407 likely Republican primary voters and 404 likely Democratic voters in New Hampshire questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.


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