Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are tied in a new national 2016 GOP presidential primary poll.
But as a sign of how split the field is, a plurality (19%) of respondents said they “don’t know” who their first choice was or refused to answer.
Paul and Huckabee each receive 13% in a new WPA Research poll that was released on Saturday. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is third at 9%, and embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is tied with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in fourth with 9%.
“With a field of quality candidates, it is no surprise that no one has broken away from the pack,” said WPA Research CEO Chris Wilson. “The important thing at this point of the race is staying in the conversation, and the fact that Rand Paul, Huckabee, Bush, Christie, and Cruz are all managing to do what bodes well for them long term.”
Paul has been laying the foundation for a 2016 run and has a strong base of support in states that hold early nominating contests like Iowa and New Hampshire because of his father’s previous runs. Paul is trying to add to that.
“Rand Paul seems to be doing what his father never was able to and reaching out to other parts of the party to win support. While young voters are his best group, Paul also manages to pull in support from other age groups as well,” Wilson said. He noted that Paul wins 16% of voters in the 65-74 age group.
Huckabee, who is also considering a 2016 run, has high favorability ratings in Iowa, which he won in 2008 on a shoestring budget over Mitt Romney, showing how powerful social conservatives are in the early states despite only 35% identifying as such in this poll.
Respondents believe that Paul and Christie have the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton, should she run and win the Democratic nomination. According to the poll, when “participants were also asked about which candidates would have the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton in the 2016 general election for President,” Sen. Paul and Gov. Christie each received 13%, Gov. Bush received 12%, Sen. Rubio got 9%, Huckabee managed 8%, and Sen. Cruz was close behind with 8%.
“Christie is clearly not the first choice among GOP voters overall, but when you look at which candidate Republicans believe can beat Hillary Clinton, there is evidence that the theory a moderate Republican can beat a liberal Democrat still holds some sway,” Wilson noted. “It’s a shame some Republicans haven’t learned the lessons of nominating moderate candidates like Bob Dole, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), or Mitt Romney.”
The poll also found that while 48% identified more with the “traditional Republican Party,” 42% said they identified more with the “Tea Party Movement.” In addition, “50% of participants identified with being an “economic conservative concerned about jobs, economic growth, and debt,” while “35% of participants identified with being a “social conservative concerned about moral values, protecting the family, and pro-life.”
Here are the complete results of the poll, which was conducted March 18-20th: