Since April of 2012, Public Policy Polling has surveyed a hypothetical 2016 Republican Presidential Primary race five times nationally, with Marco Rubio leading 4 of those times in a crowded nine-candidate field with no more than 22%, and no less than 18% of the vote. Chris Christie led the only other time, in PPP's 1st poll on the race, with 21% (which has since slipped to 15%).
Besides that, the early primary race has naturally remained quiet, with Rand Paul, among several others, staying in single digits; the dreaded Tier 2 status.
That all changed on March 6, 2013, the day twitter and the national media lit up with news that Rand Paul was staging one of the first genuine, old-fashioned Senate filibusters in years, forcing Americans to consider whether the White House was abusing it's executive power regarding drone warfare in his opposition to CIA Chief John Brennan.
Yes, thanks to the filibuster heard 'round both social & traditional media, it appears we've seen our first true "bounce" of the 2016 primary season, at least according to PPP's recent national survey conducted March 27-30, 2013. Senator Rand Paul has jumped into Tier 1 status, leap frogging Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Mike Huckabee to place a very respectable 2nd in a 9 person field. Furthermore, Quinnipiac was out yesterday with their FIRST national look at the GOP primary race, and have Paul in 3rd place with 15%, just behind Paul Ryan (17%) and Marco Rubio (19%).
And Rand Paul's bounce hasn't been isolated to national polls. He averaged just 8% with Republican primary voters in 2016 state-polls conducted since last year, while post-filibuster surveys have shown him in 2nd place in Pennsylvania (17%), and 3rd place in Florida (where he's expectedly being squeezed-out by home-staters Jeb Bush & Marco Rubio).
So we're agreed. Rand Paul has seen a boost in support nationally (& state-by-state) since early March, likely due to rabid media coverage of his old-fashioned, not leaving-the-floor-to-pee filibuster. But who exactly likes Rand Paul, in terms of the Republican Primary electorate? Where did his sudden jump in polls stem from? According to PPP's nat'l survey cross-tabs, it came from conservative Republicans:
Rand Paul experienced large jumps in support from both "very conservative" and "somewhat conservative" Republicans, while his level of "moderate/liberal" support remained static compared to pre-filibuster PPP national averages. In fact, as the above chart indicates, Paul ranks 2nd out of nine among "very conservative" Republicans in PPP's new national survey, as well as 2nd among "somewhat conservatives." Ironically, despite his call for more individual liberty in the Republican party at this year's CPAC convention, he ranks 5th of nine among self-identified "moderate or liberal" Republican primary voters. It will be interesting to see if the Libertarian's call for a "new Republican Party" ends up boosting his percentage with moderates/liberals; it certainly doesn't appear to have hurt him with conservatives. If he were successful at getting his support among moderates/liberals to his level of support w/ conservatives, he'd easily replace Marco Rubio as the GOP front-runner.
It's been said here before that the ideological bent of the primary electorate in 2016 will obviously determine how the candidates perform. Having said that, Public Policy Polling found a more conservative GOP primary electorate than the one from 2012 (74% conservative, vs. 67% conservative, respectively). But reweighting the survey's ideological I.D. to match 2012's primary electorate does very little to alter the poll results (see the chart below for an illustration of PPP's recent primary survey results reweighted to the 2012, 2008, and 2000 GOP primary ideological identification):
|The math behind the reweighted figures can be found here.|
There are many who believe that unlike 2012, 2016 will feature competitive primaries for both political parties, more along the lines of what occurred in 2008. The 2008 national GOP primary electorate's ideological identification, compiled from state by state exit poll data, was slightly less conservative and more moderate/liberal than 2012, but still not enough to alter the result of the PPP poll, if reweighted.
You have to go back to the 2000 GOP primary to find an electorate that moderately alters PPP's actual survey findings. That year, the Republicans had a fairly competitive primary early-on between George W. Bush and John McCain, while the Democrats saw Al Gore, the indisputable frontrunner for the nomination, dispense of nominal opposition from Sen. Bill Bradley very early. Such a scenario doesn't sound all that unlikely for 2016, assuming the GOP primary electorate is competitive, and assuming Hillary Clinton faces only nominal opposition from her Democratic opponent(s). In 2000, just 55% of GOP primary voters told exit pollsters they were either very or somewhat conservative, while a whopping 40% identified as moderate or liberal. Obviously, if the PPP poll result is reweighted to such an ideological I.D. finding, candidates that do the best among moderates and liberals are going to benefit. That's why the 5th column in the above chart shows Christie surging past Rand Paul to TIE Marco Rubio for 1st. It's also why Jeb Bush nearly ties Rand Paul for 3rd.
Who knows what kind of GOP electorate will turn out during the first half of 2016? But the good news for Rand Paul (and bad news for Chris Christie and Jeb Bush) is the trend over the last 4 primary cycles has been towards more conservatives, less moderates and liberals (see the chart documenting this fact here).
Most of the information in this post seems like pretty good news for Rand Paul. But did his primary bounce come too early? Well, obviously yes. But that doesn't mean it won't come again, and again, and again. Remember the 2012 GOP primary, particularly from about June of 2011 through January 2012? Check out the chart below:
|Chart courtesy of Real Clear Politics|
Over the course of about 6-7 months, Republicans saw Mitt Romney, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all with national leads on the RCP average at some point (and even Michele Bachmann was a close 2nd in June-July 2007). So yeah, Rand Paul would much prefer this bounce be occurring just under three years from now. Though if the chart above is any indication, he has a lot more rising and falling to do yet.