The good, the bad and the ugly of the Des Moines Register 2016 poll

December 16, 2013

The Des Moines Register released a poll Sunday testing what Iowans  think about all sorts of potential 2016 candidates. It's gold for people like us, so we sorted through all of the numbers and below offer the good, the bad and the ugly from the poll. Before we go on, let's get this out of the way: Yes, it's insanely early to poll a 2016 race and, yes, the numbers will absolutely change — and then change again — before any votes are cast. In spite of all of that, we soldier on because, let's be honest, this stuff is irresistible and fascinating.


Former U.S. secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton jokes with U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta after being presented the Department of Defense's highest award for public service at the Pentagon on Feb. 14, 2013. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

The Good

* Paul Ryan: The Wisconsin congressman probably won't be a candidate in 2016, but his strong showing among Iowa Republicans was the biggest surprise in the data. Almost three in four Republicans had a favorable view of Ryan, and that popularity extended to tea party types — two-thirds of whom liked what they saw in the the party's last vice presidential nominee. Ryan's numbers speak to the power of being on the national ticket — even if you don't win.

* Hillary Rodham Clinton: These data prove that Clinton would start a 2016 race in a stronger position — at least in Iowa — than she did when she ran in 2008. Half of all Iowans feel favorably toward Clinton, and that number jumps to almost nine in 10 self-identified Democrats. Clinton's numbers would fall if/when she became a candidate because many of the independents and even Republicans who like her now will peel away once she is viewed though a more political lens. But she starts from a remarkable position of strength.

* Mike Huckabee: Iowans (still) heart Huckabee. Two-thirds of Republicans like what they see in the former Arkansas governor and, more importantly, Huckabee is well regarded among evangelical voters (60 percent favorable) and tea partiers (63 percent favorable) — two of the key constituencies in any Republican caucus. While we still think Huckabee might struggle if he runs, these numbers suggest he would be a very powerful endorser of any candidate who does make the race.

The Bad

* Joe Biden: Biden's numbers aren't great — a fact that almost certainly has more to do with the fact that he gets conflated in most peoples' minds with President Obama than any sort of ill feeling toward the vice president himself. Almost six in 10 Iowans (57 percent) view Biden unfavorably — including almost one in five Democrats. Those numbers speak to the difficulty of running as a sitting vice president in a less-than-popular administration.

* Ted Cruz: Cruz has been greeted like a conquering hero when he has visited Iowa, but the Register numbers tell a different story. His favorable rating sits at 46 percent among Republicans, but almost one in five (17 percent) see the Texas senator unfavorably. (That 46 percent favorability score puts Cruz in a tie for last among all of the Republicans the Register tested.) That finding alone should give some pause to the idea that the 2016 caucuses are his to lose.

The Ugly

* Chris Christie: The New Jersey governor may be riding high nationally — we just said he had a "great" year — but the Register poll shows he would start a campaign in Iowa in rough shape. Three in 10 Iowa Republicans view Christie unfavorably — almost 10 percent more than the next most negatively viewed candidate (former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum.) Independents like Christie a lot, but that may not matter if he can't convince die-hard Republicans that he's one of them.

Fixbits:

The recount in Virginia's attorney general race begins today.

Obama marked the one-year anniversary of the deadly mass shooting at a school in Newtown, Conn., with a call for action on gun control and more support for mental health.

Ryan signaled the GOP will want concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

Ryan also defended the budget deal he struck that passed the House. The deal seems likely to pass in the Senate this week. But Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the "struggle is still on in the United States Senate."

The DSCC raised $5.1 million in November. It has more than $12 million cash on hand and $5 million in debt.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said the Senate is "very likely" to pass an Iran sanctions bill.

If Republicans don't like the budget deal, it should galvanize them to do well in the 2014 elections, said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R).

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and his wife had a baby girl.

Must-reads:

"White House delayed enacting rules ahead of 2012 election to avoid controversy" — Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

"Machiavelli With Malaprops" — Jon Ralston, Politico magazine

"Boehner’s blasts: One more volley in the long GOP battle" — Dan Balz, Washington Post

"Proposals underway to change how Coloradans elect candidates, vote" — Lynn Bartels, Denver Post

"The Most Expensive Senate Race of the Cycle — So Far" — Kyle Trygstad, Roll Call

"George P. takes baby steps away from Bush name" — Will Weissert, AP

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