More Republican voters would definitely vote against all of the leading GOP candidates for president than would definitely vote for any of them, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll testing the 2016 field.
Those numbers tell us a few things about the prospective field.
1. There is no true frontrunner as Democrats have in Hillary Clinton. Even former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who many people view as the favorite if he decides to run, only has 15 percent of Republicans saying they would definitely vote for him while 18 percent said they would definitely vote against him. (In the broader general election electorate of registered voters, a whopping 50 percent of respondents said they would definitely not vote for Jeb.) For each of the eight candidates looking at the race (the poll also tested Mitt Romney but he seems entirely uninterested in running), the people who hate them (or at least won't vote for them) outnumber those who are definitely for them. That, of course, can be overcome but suggests that the fight for the nomination will be a battle royale. (This wrestling fan thinks we need more battle royales.)
2. Chris Christie should be worried. Three in ten Republicans said they would definitely not vote for the New Jersey governor, the highest "won't vote for" number of any of the nine candidates tested. It's easy to attribute that opposition within the GOP to Christie's problems dealing with Bridgegate but it's worth remembering that the distrust/dislike of Christie within the Republican base goes back to the 2012 election and his perceived over-friendliness to President Obama in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
3. No one knows who Scott Walker is. While the Wisconsin governor is touted as a top-tier candidate if he decides to run (and if he gets reelected this November), he is, by far, the least well known of the nine candidates. One in three Republican voters said they were "not sure" whether they would (or wouldn't) vote for Walker. That's not necessarily a bad thing for him. Better to be unknown than have a solid (and large-ish) group of GOP voters aligned against you ala Christie.
4. The two candidates best positioned to appeal across a wide spectrum of the GOP are Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.) and Rand Paul (Ky.). While more people say they will definitely vote against each man than say they will definitely vote for either, the differences are statistically insignificant. And, a majority of Republicans say they would "consider" voting for Rubio and Paul, a sign that each man has room to grow. These numbers also make clear that Rubio may be bouncing back from the damage done during the Senate's passage on immigration reform.
It's important not to read too much into these numbers. We're 20+ months away from the first votes of the Republican presidential primary being cast and, in truth, even the most ardent of Republican voters has only the dimmest sense of the candidates right now. But the data does suggest the outline of a race defined, at least at the moment, by who GOP voters don't want rather than who they do.