New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose handling of Hurricane Sandy and television appearances has drawn positive media coverage, runs fourth among potential party rivals in the 2016 presidential campaign, a poll of Republican voters shows.
The survey by Hamden, Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University showed a wide-open field as the party works to rehabilitate its image five months after President Barack Obama became the first holder of the office in 56 years to win more than 51 percent of the popular vote twice.
No one attracted 20 percent support from Republican voters. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida got 19 percent, compared with 17 percent for Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the party’s vice-presidential nominee last year, and 15 percent for Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. Christie had 14 percent backing and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush received 10 percent. Christie, 50, is favored to win re-election in New Jersey in November.
“Three years before the nominating process, the Republicans have no clear favorite,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Polling Institute.
More broadly, 28 percent of all registered voters in the March 26-April 1 telephone survey had a favorable opinion of the Republican Party and 52 percent viewed it unfavorably. The image of the Democratic Party wasn’t much better, with 38 percent holding a favorable view compared with 44 percent unfavorable.
“The Republican brand is essentially in the toilet these days, but it’s worth remembering the Democrats faced a similar situation in the late 1980s and got their house in order and returned to power in short order,” Brown said.
Republicans in Congress have a weaker image than their party generally, with 19 percent of registered voters approving of them and 71 percent disapproving, compared with 34 percent approving and 59 percent disapproving of Democrats in Congress.
A Republican National Committee report released last month called for dozens of changes in how the party contacts voters and recruits candidates.
Obama got a 49 percent job-approval rating in the Quinnipiac poll, with 45 percent disapproving. That’s an improvement over his approval hovering in the mi-40 percent range “as the budget battle with Congress took its toll,” Brown said. “Now he may be inching up again.”
The Quinnipiac survey included 1,711 registered voters, including 712 Republicans. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.4 percentage points for registered voters and plus or minus 3.7 percentage points for Republican voters.
The lack of an early Republican front-runner contrasts with a prospective Democratic field led by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 65, who has kept a low profile since leaving the State Department earlier this year.
A former first lady and senator from New York who hasn’t said if she will run for president, Clinton had a 61 percent favorability rating among registered voters in a Jan. 30-Feb. 4 Quinnipiac poll.