Battleground Ohio: The [early] polls are in, showing a Clinton-Christie tie

It's never too early to poll test presidential prospects, it seems. So, a new Ohio poll finds Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie dead even, at 42 percent. Clinton beats Rand Paul, Joe Biden doesn't.

John Gress/Reuters
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative America meeting in Chicago, Illinois, June 14. A new poll of battleground Ohio shows that potential presidential hopefuls Clinton (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) would tie there in 2016.
Scott Eisen/AP
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks during the Clinton Global Initiative America's meeting, June 14, in Chicago.

A new poll of battleground Ohio shows that potential Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Rodham Clinton would run neck-in-neck there in 2016 against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a possible Republican contender.

If the election were held today, and former Secretary of State Clinton and Governor Christie had secured their respective party nominations, they would deadlock at 42 percent each.

The news for Vice President Joe Biden, who has also teased his interest in succeeding President Obama, isn’t nearly as sunny. Mr. Biden would be bested by Christie and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R), another lawmaker who is widely viewed to be considering a national candidacy. Christie tops Biden 50 percent to 32 percent in the poll; Senator Paul trumps Biden 49 percent to 40 percent.

Clinton, on the other hand, would beat back a Paul bid, 47 percent to 44 percent.

While the Quinnipiac poll tests these particular matchups, the list of other Republicans also quietly pondering a White House run is long and includes: Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Nikki Haley of South Carolina; Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas, and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Ohio has voted for every White House winner since 1964, and in 2004, its voters lifted then-President George W. Bush over the required 270 electoral vote count required for victory. President Bush, of course, defeated then-Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry (D) that year.

In the minds of those who make up the chattering class, it’s never too early to begin handicapping the next presidential contest. And with Clinton making her debut recently as an active private citizen by hitting the speaking circuit, announcing a new role via the Clinton family’s foundation, and joining Twitter, the buzz around her has grown louder. If she decides to run, it will be interesting to watch if and how she’ll clear a Democratic field that could include Biden, who has run twice previously himself, and has national name recognition and a platform of his own from which to launch a campaign.

Other Democrats waiting in the wings include New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

For his part, Christie has experienced a boost in national attention after making a very public appearance late last year with the president to review the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. That photo opportunity, airing days before the 2012 White House election, reinforced perceptions of Christie as a bipartisan actor from a blue northern state who might have wider appeal; the visual also helped to buoy Obama, looking ever presidential during a national emergency, over his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

Christie’s star is on the rise; he recently slow jammed the news on ‘Late Night With Jimmy Fallon,’ showing a lighthearted side to himself and decent comic timing. His visibility – and seeming likability – has not been lost on Clinton or her husband, former President Bill Clinton, who invited the New Jersey governor to engage in a panel conversation during the Clintons’ recent family foundation summit in Chicago.

Perhaps the Ohio survey is missing the mark. Maybe Clinton and Christie won’t be rivals after all. Clinton could take a stab at crafting a doubly historic 2016 bid by inviting Christie to run with her. The first female president? The first unity ticket since Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson? 

Just a thought. And certainly Christie might have other ideas.

The Ohio poll, meanwhile, provides other good news for Clinton. Her favorables crest the critical 50 percent mark, while Biden’s do not. Respondents say they have a favorable view of Clinton, 52 percent to 44 percent. Biden’s numbers are upside-down, 41 percent rate him favorably, while 48 percent register an unfavorable opinion.

A last key survey item that might give the Democrats some reason to pause as they look to the next White House contest – Obama’s support in Ohio has eroded.

“Ohio was the key state in both of President Barack Obama’s elections, and it was his strong showing among independent voters there that made the difference,” says Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, in a statement. “President Obama’s fortunes in the Buckeye State have turned. Since last December, he has lost 10 points among Democrats and 17 points among independent voters. He has gone from a 20-point approval margin to a 9-point disapproval margin among female voters.”

The survey, conducted June 18-23, polled 941 registered voters and had a margin of error of 3.2 percentage points.

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