Who will carry the mantle of front-runner for this week? The media likes to name front-runners, set up first tier and second tier candidates, and drive an “electability” narrative.
The simple fact here is that Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, etc. are not front-runners. They are not doing poorly in the polls, but this race is extremely crowded and the electorate is fickle.
There is a buzz from the latest CNN poll that has 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee up by five in a national poll.
- Huckabee – 17%
- Bush – 12%
- (Tie) Rand Paul and Scott Walker – 11%
- Ben Carson – 9%
- Chris Christie – 7%
- Marco Rubio – 6%
- Ted Cruz – 3%
- (Tie) Rick Perry, John Kasich and Rick Santorum – 2%
- (Tie) Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina and Lindsey Graham – 1%
The Real Clear Politics national average has Bush leading by 3 points with only 9 points between the leader and seventh place.
Honestly though national polls don’t mean much in the nomination process. Momentum is built with each state. This is where things get really interesting.
In Iowa, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker leads the field. The latest poll had him up by 14 points! That seems off to me. Looking at the Real Clear Politics average of the recent Iowa polls tells the more likely story at this point – it’s extremely close.
- Scott Walker – 16.3% (+3.5)
- Mike Huckabee – 12.8%
- Jeb Bush – 12.0%
- Rand Paul – 9.8%
- Ben Carson – 8.5%
- Chris Christie – 7.3%
- Marco Rubio – 5.3%
- Rick Santorum – 5.0%
- Ted Cruz – 4.3%
- Rick Perry – 3.3%
- Jindal – 2.0%
11 points separate first from seventh place and that’s including the outlier poll. Three men, almost four, have double digits. It’s early.
Looking at New Hampshire again we have a virtual tie. With the last five polls, Bush led in three, Walker in two. Bush led by three in the last two polls. Here’s RCP average for the Granite State.
- Walker – 16.6% (+0.4)
- Bush – 16.2%
- Paul – 11.0%
- Christie – 10.2%
- Carson – 7.3%
- Huckabee – 7.0%
- Rubio – 5.8%
- Cruz – 4.4%
- Santorum – 2.0%
- Jindal – 2.0%
- Perry – 1.8%
There have been two polls taken in South Carolina, but I’m just going to look at the most recent one. Again it shows a close race. The Marist/NBC poll has U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as the leader, but not by much.
- Graham – 17% (+2)
- Bush -15%
- Walker – 12%
- Huckabee – 10%
- Carson – 10%
- Paul – 7%
- Christie – 6%
- (tie) Rubio and Perry – 4%
- Santorum – 3%
- Ted Cruz – 1%
There are five prospective candidates who have double digits. Only 10 points separate 1st from 6th place.
You have seven candidates who have received double digits in at least one state, three in two states, and two – Walker and Bush in double digits in all three early contest states.
This is close. Graham’s lead in South Carolina is not a surprise, but 58% of respondents say he shouldn’t run for President. That doesn’t bode well. Graham hasn’t really hit any of the polling in Iowa and New Hampshire. Also Ohio Governor John Kasich is a relative newcomer to the polls, he could be a problem for Bush with the moderate/establishment wing of the Republican Party.
So basically we have now Walker leading in Iowa. Bush and Walker pretty much tied in New Hampshire. Graham leading in South Carolina. Several people within striking distance and it’s early.
I would not be surprised if we saw a different winner in each of the first three states like 2012. If Bush doesn’t end up fairing well in the first three states then Florida could be his first state. Theoretically it’s possible we could have four different winners in the first four states depending on how crowded the field is after Iowa. I doubt it, but if it did happen we would be uncharted territory.
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