Two-thirds of Americans in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll say they’d consider supporting Hillary Clinton for president, far more than the current take-a-look numbers for a range of potential Republican candidates – some of them less popular, others just less known.
As potential Republican candidates make their appearances at the Conservative Political Action Committee Conference starting today, 25 percent of Americans say they’d “definitely” support Clinton if she ran for president and 41 percent say they would consider her. The rest, 32 percent, rule her out – fewer than did so in 2006-7, in advance of her losing run for the 2008 Democratic nomination.
Some in the potential GOP herd start with bigger handicaps, including some marquee names: Forty-nine percent in this poll, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, say they’d definitely not support Mitt Romney; 48 percent say the same about Jeb Bush (perhaps conflating him with his brother George, deeply unpopular in his second term).
Thirty-eight to 40 percent rule out other notable Republicans, including Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry. Fewer, 32 and 28 percent, respectively, rule out supporting Marco Rubio or the particularly little-known Scott Walker. In any case, each of these still has a clear majority available to woo – and a majority is what it takes.
GOP DIVISIONS – Getting there, though, is a challenge: Sharp ideological divisions mark views within the ranks of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, underscoring the conflict between “very” conservative Republicans and less-so ones.
Willingness at least to consider Rand Paul, for example, reaches 83 percent among very conservative Republicans but slides to 60 percent among their “somewhat” conservative counterparts. There’s a similar gap for Scott Walker and a sizable one for Ted Cruz, as well.
Tea Party favorites are likely to be among the most popular attendees at CPAC, while Christie, with his more moderate image (and recent Bridgegate scandal) may fare less well. As noted, potential support from strong conservative Republicans ranges as high as 83 percent for Paul – but drops as low as a downright chilly 52 percent for Christie. Nor does Christie do better among somewhat conservative Republicans, a challenge if he runs.
At the same time, among all adults, 48 percent say they’d consider Christie, as good or better than any of his competitors. It’s the nomination that’s his bigger difficulty.
Rubio, Paul and Huckabee, for their part, maintain high levels of support among somewhat conservative and moderate Republicans, but it’s Bush and Romney who lead in this wing of the GOP. Seventy-four percent of somewhat conservatives in the party would at least consider Romney and two-thirds say the same for Bush; both also have potential support from seven in 10 moderate leaned Republicans. (Strong conservatives account for 23 percent of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents in this poll, somewhat conservatives for 36 percent and moderates for 32 percent.)
Meanwhile Walker, the Wisconsin governor, has an opportunity to gain a greater following given that he’s unknown to 35 percent overall and three in 10 leaned Republicans.
OVERALL – Two-thirds of Americans, as noted, say they’d at least consider Clinton for president; that drops to the high 30s to high 40s for the Republicans tested in this survey. Simply being known is one factor: While just 2 percent can’t say whether or not they’d consider Clinton, that jumps, for example, to 15 percent for Paul, 23 percent for Rubio and 35 percent for Walker. As they become better known, their take-a-look numbers may well grow.
Clinton’s potential voters include nine in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of independents and even a third of Republicans. Among possible Republican candidates, Rubio is competitive within his own party and also has reasonable interest outside it. Some of the others show less cross-border appeal.
GROUPS – As expected given partisan preferences, whites, rural dwellers and evangelical white Protestants are most willing to consider Republican candidates. Clinton, for her part, gets the closest look from nonwhites, those with no religious affiliation, young adults, people earning less than $50,000 a year, those with either the most or least formal education, Northeasterners and women.
There’s also an age effect: Young adults generally are more willing to give any of the possible candidates a chance, while seniors are most apt to rule them out.
METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 27-March 2, 2014, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,002 adults, including landline and cell-phone-only respondents. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points, including design effect. Partisan divisions are 30-22-40 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.
The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates of New York, N.Y., with sampling, data collection and tabulation by Abt-SRBI of New York, N.Y.