Steinhauser: Bush and Walker at top of the pack in new NH GOP primary poll
CONCORD - Jeb Bush and Scott Walker top a crowded field of probable Republican presidential candidates, according to a new poll of likely GOP primary voters in New Hampshire.
Nineteen percent of those questioned in a Suffolk University survey released Thursday said that Bush, a former two-term governor of Florida and brother and son to former presidents, was their first choice to win the Republican presidential primary. Walker, who last November was re-elected to a second full term as Wisconsin governor, had the support of 14% likely GOP Granite State primary voters.
According to the survey, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky had the backing of 7% of likely GOP first-in-the-nation primary voters, with real estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump at 6%. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who on Monday became the first major name to officially launch a presidential campaign, stood at 5%. The survey was conducted March 21-24, both before and after the announcement by Cruz.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also stood at 5%, with Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson tied at 3%. Ten other candidates tested in the questionnaire registered at less than two percent support, with nearly a quarter of those polled saying they were undecided.
"This field is wide open and most of these polling results are based on simple nae recognition at this point. Any candidate can win this primary," cautions Steve Duprey, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman one one of the two Granite State members on the Republican National Committee.
David Paleologos, Director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center, said "the single-digit candidates need to go to New Hampshire and make a personal appeal to likely Republican voters in order to become the Republican alternative to Jeb Bush. There are still plenty of undecided voters to help make the case."
According to the survey, Bush had a 54%-27% favorable-unfavorable rating, with Walker standing at 46%-15%.
The poll indicates that among self-described conservatives, Walker had a 20%-14% advantage over Bush. And the survey also indicated that GOP first-in-the-nation primary voters said terrorism and national security (21%) were the most important issues, followed by jobs and economy (21%) and reducing the national debt (11%).
"I'm not surprise that national security is a top issue given the terrible record of the Obama/Clinton foreign policy. I am also not surprised that New Hampshire, perhaps the most fiscally conservative state in the country, understands the importance of dealing with our debt," added Duprey, a top adviser to Sen. John McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, but who is staying neutral in the 2016 cycle.
Even with more than 20 likely GOP candidates in the mix, a third of those questioned said they were somewhat or very dissatisfied with the Republican field of candidates. And eight in ten said they felt the country was on the wrong track, with only 13% saying things were going in the right direction.
"These are the kind of numbers that provide fertile ground for a well-financed independent candidate to consider the dissatisfaction among political party loyalists and to present a third alternative," added Paleologos.
Bush and Walker leading the field in the new poll continues a trend. The two men topped four out of five New Hampshire GOP surveys conducted in late January through early March, including an NH1 News poll. All the surveys were conducted after Mitt Romney announced he would not launch a bid for the 2016 nomination.
The survey questioned 500 likely GOP primary voters, with a sampling error of plus or minus 4.4% points.