Republican Presidential
Candidates Tightly Bunched

April 3, 2015 — Public Policy Polling conducted an intriguing new national survey of GOP voters (March 26-31; 443 national Republican primary voters), but the tiny respondent sample size casts a reliability question concerning the results.

Though the pollster cites a large polling error factor of 4.7 percent, such a small sample –- a national poll should be in the 1,000 respondent range -– usually yields an even greater unreliability factor.

Understanding such, the PPP results are still interesting; it shows the Republican presidential candidates closely bunched with five reaching double-digits, which suggests a free-for-all campaign. Should similar results be confirmed and continue through the early stages of primary and caucus voting next year, the preliminary states will produce no discernible pattern or consensus front runner. If so, the chance of moving to an open, or “brokered”, convention multiplies exponentially.

According to this latest Public Policy Polling offering, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker again leads the Republican field, this time with 20 percent preference. Following closely at the 17 percent plateau is former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. On the heels of his formal announcement making him the first official 2016 presidential candidate, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz pulls into third place just four points behind Walker and one in back of Bush. The two remaining candidates in double-digits each claim 10 percent support: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who is planning to officially announce his candidacy next week, and Maryland retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, M.D., tie for fourth place.

The other candidates attract only single-digit support, but are still close behind. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), set to announce his candidacy on April 13, and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee each claim 6 percent. Following are New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (4 percent) and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (3 percent).

With all nine presumed candidates within 20 points of each other, this Republican race has the underpinnings of becoming the most wide-open battle in the modern political era. There is literally no candidate who couldn’t catch fire and quickly rise to the top.

On the other hand, confirming a sense of negative momentum, Gov. Christie performs worst on the personal favorability scale, posting a poor 24:57 percent positive to negative perception within the Republican sample cell group. Christie not only finds himself upside-down by better than a 2:1 margin, but he is the sole candidate experiencing such a downturn. If polling numbers such as these continue to haunt Christie, it will be very difficult for him to develop a winning, or even competitive, campaign.

The poll also shows trouble for Jeb Bush, who can only muster a 39:37 percent favorability score.

On the other end of the scale, Gov. Walker does the best of all the GOP candidates, posting a 54:14 percent rating from the sampling universe membership.

The other contenders all score in a similar range, which bodes well for each:

Sen. Marco Rubio – 55:22%
Dr. Ben Carson – 48:14%
Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee – 53:26%
Sen. Ted Cruz – 52:30%
Sen. Rand Paul – 49:30%
Ex-Gov. Rick Perry – 41:28%

Now with individuals beginning to take steps toward becoming official candidates, the open 2016 presidential campaign is beginning in earnest.

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