Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State, leads hypothetical 2016 presidential polls in Virginia ahead of other GOP contenders, namely New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Clinton leads Christie at a 43-41 percent margin. Coming in at second is Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) at 47-40 percent and Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) at 48-40 percent. Currently, no other potential Republican presidential candidates come within a 10 percent margin of Clinton.
The poll released by Christopher Newport University in Newport News, Virginia last week netted 901 respondents. Virginia is now considered a key battleground state as the electorate has shifted back and forth during the last few election cycles. Most recently, the gubernatorial election when Terry McAuliffe (D) won over then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) and the presidential election when incumbent Barack Obama won by taking 51 percent of the vote over Mitt Romney’s 47 percent.
Although Clinton is leading the hypothetical general election poll by just 2 percent, the margin of error results in an essential tie with Christie. Despite the alleged scandal involving Governor Christie and the closing of bridge traffic late last year, he is polling well – particularly with women. The polls show that Hillary Clinton’s favorableness among women had dropped below 50 percent. Statistics show that the lack of support for Hillary is being transferred to Christie. His ability to keep Hillary’s support in that demographic under 50 percent could be the deciding factor during the nomination process.
In 2012, the Gallup Poll showed that the gender gap created was the largest divide in elections the poll has ever recorded. Before the aptly named scandal “Bridgegate” burst forth into the national spotlight, Christie poll fairly even with Clinton in an Iowa Quinnipiac poll. However, the poll’s results showed that Christie struggles to capture the support of women. Both Rubio and Paul were also able hold the former Secretary of State to single-digit leads in similar polls.
While Clinton enjoys overwhelming Democratic support – 66 percent – her extensive political career and name recognition could hinder her endeavor to seek the White House. Although she holds a principal lead nearly two years before 2016 election fever sets in, Virginia voters seem to have a grasp on their opinion of the lead Democratic candidate. Just 7 percent of Commonwealth voters said they were unsure whether they viewed Clinton favorably or unfavorably. 51 percent held a favorable opinion of her against 42 who expressed an unfavorable judgment.
Republican candidates in Virginia have room for growth. Around 24 percent of voters are unsure about Christie for the presidency. Both Marco Rubio and Rand Paul hold even more potential to capture the heart and minds of Virginians at 44 percent and 35 percent of voters, respectively, uncertain about them.
As of now, Hillary Clinton has not announced if she will run again for president. Nonetheless, as the Democratic nominee, she would undoubtedly rely on Virginia as a key battleground state that could deliver her the election. Last year, Governor Terry McAuliffe (D) relished in the support from the Clintons, who are longtime friends, and delivered him a slim victory of Republican candidate Ken Cuccinelli.
This is the first time in decades that a Democrat holds all top political positions in the Commonwealth. Just in the last few election cycles, Virginia has shifted from a traditionally red state to a purple swing state – with large areas like Richmond and Northern Virginia inflating Democratic support among a mainly conservative electoral. Although Christie is the most formidable candidate against Clinton, the Republican nomination is nearly a toss-up at this point.
RNC Chairman Reince Priebus stated late last year the Republican Convention would be held later which would allow Christie, Rubio, and Paul to increase their time spent in Virginia to win over voters in the key swing state. Even though the political veteran Hillary Clinton is leading among voters in Virginia, polling results show the current Republican favorite, Chris Christie, is not far behind.
By Alex Lemieux