Jeb Bush has major problems in Iowa. His vocal support for immigration reform and the national education standards known as Common Core bother many in the state's Republican base.
A Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll of likely participants in the state's 2016 Republican caucuses shows nearly two-thirds consider Bush's positions on those issues to be a deal-killer, or something they'd consider when deciding whether to support him. Just 32 percent have no problem with those stands.
The poll also found that among five potential non-establishment candidates looking at running, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky scored the highest marks on a set of issues of interest to many Republicans.
Bush, a former Florida governor, has failed to show early strength in the state that will start the presidential nominating process a year from now. In the poll, he had the support of just 8 percent of likely Republican caucus-goers, roughly half the backing recorded by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Part of the problem may be unfamiliarity—Bush hasn't visited the state since October 2012—but the poll suggests he has other weaknesses.
“Common Core is not something that I'm a fan of, and it doesn’t seem like it needs to be there,” said Collin Gillaspie, 20, a Republican who lives in Davenport and works for city government. He's leaning toward supporting Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, if he runs.
“On immigration, I feel like it's not right for people to just move here and apply for a work visa. You have to come here and earn it,” Gillaspie said. “I think a lot of people are too soft on the issue.”
Though he's the son and brother of former presidents, Republicans planning to participate in the caucuses don't seem inclined to hold Bush's family ties against him. Almost two-thirds see no problem with having another Bush in the White House. At the same time, half think his strengths as a potential candidate are based on his family connections to politics, far more than the 19 percent who picked his “unique qualities and achievements” or the 19 percent who selected his “policies and vision for the country.”
The poll also found that Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, has retained far more of his support than former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the winner of the more recent 2012 caucuses.
More than a third of Republican poll participants said Huckabee would be best at “reflecting traditional values,” compared to 16 percent for Santorum. The group tested also included Cruz, Paul, and neurosurgeon Ben Carson.
“By far, Huckabee is the values guy, which might explain why Santorum is not going after values as hard as he did last time,” said J. Ann Selzer, president of West Des Moines-based Selzer & Co., which conducted the poll. “The contrast here is between Santorum and Huckabee, and Santorum doesn't shine on anything.”
Among the five potential candidates, Paul was considered the Republicans' best hope to win a showdown with Democrat Hillary Clinton. Paul also gets the highest share—26 percent—on who would be best at reducing the size of government. “That positions him in a strong place,” Selzer said.
Cruz was seen as the best choice for combating terrorism, with 22 percent support, followed by Huckabee at 21 percent. Huckabee was also identified as best at creating jobs and improving the quality of education among the group of five candidates.
The Iowa Poll was conducted Monday through Thursday and included 402 likely Republican caucus participants. The survey has a margin or error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.