Why Rand’s the Current 2016 GOP Front-Runner

Rand Paul

The Republican field is fluid and volatile but Paul registers double-digits almost everywhere.


When The Run 2016 last published in January prior to its move to U.S. News, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remained the 2016 Republican presidential front-runner of the moment, despite the bruises he sustained from the bridgegate scandal.

Two and a half months and a handful of polling later, a weakened Christie’s been nudged from his perch but undoubtedly remains in the game.

As it has been for months, the GOP field is volatile and fluid with as many as a half dozen potential candidates polling within the margin of error of each other, depending on the survey.

But when isolated to polling conducted over the last month, there’s one notable trend that emerges: Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul manages to register double-digits everywhere.

Take the three national GOP primary polls released in March. Public Policy Polling produced 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee as the leader of the pack nationally with 18 percent. Paul tied with Christie for third place with 14 percent. Jeb Bush — enjoying a boomlet of media attention after his appearance at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum Sunday — was second with 15 percent.

Meanwhile, CNN’s poll put Paul in the catbird seat, leading the field with 16 percent.

Finally, a Wilson Perkins Research survey found Paul and Huckabee tied at the top with 13 percent each.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Christie, Bush and even Huckabee’s standing varied between the three polls. Paul’s number was the most consistent despite the differing methodology. He’s firmly in the low- to mid-teens.

Head into the early primary states – the most important metric when measuring presidential primary power – and Paul’s numbers are similar.

The last two polls out of the first in the nation caucus state of Iowa found Huckabee with narrow leads over Paul. WPA, a GOP-aligned firm, pegged Huckabee at 14 percent and Paul at 10 percent. The Democratic-aligned PPP survey taken in February found a similar result: Huckabee in first with 17 percent, but Paul not far behind in second place, garnering 14 percent.

New Hampshire, which follows Iowa in the primary process, appears to be slightly friendlier territory for the libertarian-minded Paul. A Suffolk University survey taken at the beginning of the month had Paul and Christie knotted at 12 percent at the top.

To be precise, Paul had the edge, drawing three more votes than Christie out of the 426 polled.

But the larger point is that of all the candidates in the scrum, Paul is performing best on the major polling cylinders – nationally, in Iowa and in New Hampshire. Furthermore, by strictly observational measures – his greatest competition at the moment – Huckabee – is viewed as less likely to ultimately run than he is.

Questions about Paul’s foreign policy views, organizational acumen and ability to win over GOP establishment figures will continue to percolate during this early pre-primary season. But one thing that can’t be questioned is Paul’s polling consistency, which has earned him the tenuous title of front-runner.

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