Thursday, January 15, 2015

In the Mitt vs. Jeb 2016 'Invisible (Polling) Primary,' It's Mitt By A Mile

A Jeb vs. Mitt rivalry has been the talk of the town of late. But as far as the Republican voting public is concerned, it's not even close. Photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Ever since Jeb Bush made waves last month with an early announcement about his presidential aspirations, the media has cast the 2016 Republican primary race as a Jeb vs. Mitt slugfest in the making. Both seemingly giants in their own party, pundits can't help but lick their chops at the idea. For some, it's the political equivalent of the "immovable object" facing the "irresistible force." Except for one problem: the polling numbers don't quite match the hype.

In the first national survey of the new year regarding the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary, it's clear to see why the Romney circle is ramping up chatter of a third consecutive presidential bid.

According to Republican adults, not only is Romney more well-liked than fellow establishment bigwig Jeb Bush. But he is their preferred choice for the nomination by a shockingly wide margin, in the event the field is pared down to just the two of them.

When Republicans are asked: "If the choice was between Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush, which one would you want to be the Republican nominee for president in 2016,"  60% pick Romney, while just 29% select Bush. Eleven percent are undecided.

Color me surprised. What gives? I think of Romney and Bush as being too very comparable guys. Both have near 100% name recognition among Republicans. Both have their roots in political dynasties. They have similar temperaments, ideologies, and fund-raising bases. What gives Romney such a huge advantage over Bush? Who knows? But what we do know is that Romney's superior polling position is evident in more ways than one

The YouGov poll discussed above finds that Republican adults nationwide prefer Mitt Romney be their nominee over a diverse field of candidates. He leads the pack of twelve with 28%, over double the vote share of his closest rival, Jeb Bush (who attracts 12%). The only other GOP candidate to poll in the double-digits is political novice and former neurosurgeon, Dr. Ben Carson.

YouGov echoes recent national and state surveys finding Mitt outperforming Jeb. A new Iowa poll out yesterday found Romney attracting 21% of caucus voter's support, while Jeb comes in third with 14%, behind "undecided" at 18%. In fact, Mitt leads Jeb in both of two Iowa surveys to include Romney's name as a candidate. The only New Hampshire poll to include Romney as a candidate in 2016 finds him with 30% of the vote, nearly three times the support of his closest competitor, and dwarfing Bush's 8%. Mitt leads Jeb in every national survey to include both of their names. Consider the table below:

Furthermore, in polls that test both Romney's and Jeb's favorability ratings, Mitt again comes out on top, and in a big way.

(*) denotes the poll is of Republican Primary voters, and not simply self-identified Republicans. (^) denotes the poll is a monthly average of the The Economist/YouGov weekly tracking poll.

In every circumstance in which Romney and Jeb are included in the same poll of Republicans, Mitt's favorability rating is significantly higher.

Of course, none of this may wind up mattering in the end. A lot of the chatter about Romney's third run seems a bit speculative. Not to mention, as Five Thirty Eight's Harry Enten first noted, the terrible track record of former presidential nominees that do run again for President. That record gets even worse on their third run. There's no way Romney wants to be lumped into the same company as William Jennings Bryan, Herbert Hoover, Adlai Stevenson, and Hubert Humphrey. But as Enten also points out, and as the data above indicates, a third Romney nomination could happen. And from a head-to-head, favorability rating perspective alone, it seems almost inevitable.

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