The Penultimate Test of Electability Theories

A new national CNN/ORC survey released today is going to pour some icy water over the belief of many conservative gabbers that they’ve got Hillary Clinton on the run:

In general, Republicans see Bush as the best possible candidate to match up against the Democratic nominee in 2016, but in hypothetical general election matchups against Clinton, Bush trails by a large margin, as do each of the other seven Republicans tested.

Marco Rubio fares best against the former first lady, trailing Clinton by 14 points, 55% to 41%. Bush trails Clinton by 17 points, 56% to 39%. Christie and Paul fall 19 points behind Clinton, each putting up 39% to Clinton’s 58%. Huckabee, Walker, Carson and Cruz each trail Clinton by more than 20 points.

Unlike the recent Quinnipiac polls of three battleground states that caused so much excitement by showing most of the Republican field running close to HRC in Colorado and Iowa (but not so much Virginia), the CNN/ORC poll was conducted after Clinton’s campaign launch. Maybe there’s a “bump” for her in the numbers that will fade over time, and obviously there will be hundreds of polls taken between now and November of 2016.

But these specific numbers are a reminder that Republican presidential candidates can talk all they want about their “electability” and/or their theories for why they’ll bury HRC and once and for all and prove America is a “Center-Right Nation” that will never again elect a Democrat president unless he or she is far to the right of Joe Manchin. At some point these claims will have to start being validated in public opinion surveys. This is a particular problem for Jeb Bush, that very well-known candidate who’s presently supported by 39% of the electorate. If he’s still in this position three or four months from now, when campaigning in the early Caucus and primary states gets serious, it will begin take a toll on his support among Republicans who, after all, probably would prefer someone else.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.