New poll has Hillary Clinton crushing GOP 2016 rivals in Iowa. So?

Hillary Clinton now bests GOP Gov. Chris Christie by 13 points in a new Quinnipiac survey – in a reverse of December polling. But many polls this early in the game are, well, poli-tainment.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters
Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, here attending an International Women's Day event at United Nations headquarters in New York on March 7, is leading potential GOP rivals in a new poll of the Iowa presidential primary. But 2016 is a long way off.

It’s another week, another sparkly poll for Hillary Rodham Clinton! In the latest example of her statistical dominance of the 2016 presidential pre-game, a Quinnipiac survey released Thursday finds former Secretary of State Clinton well ahead of any number of possible GOP rivals among voters in Iowa.

In a hypothetical Hawkeye State matchup between Clinton and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Clinton leads by 10 percentage points, according to Quinnipiac. She’s 16 points ahead of Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. Ex-Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida? She’s beating him by 14 points.

But the headline here is that Quinnipiac finds Clinton in front of Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey by 13 points. That’s a reversal of the same polling organization’s December results, in which Governor Christie led Clinton by 48 percent to 45 percent.

The flip seems driven by non-Republicans who previously liked Christie changing their mind due to the publicity surrounding the Bridge-gate scandal, in which the Christie administration is accused of creating traffic jams on the George Washington Bridge as political payback against the Democratic mayor of nearby Fort Lee, N.J.

Quinnipiac shows that Clinton now leads among self-proclaimed independent voters in Iowa by 46 percent to 32 percent. Back in December, independents broke for Christie by 44 to 35 percent.

“Who said, ‘All politics is local’? Clinton is benefiting from the fallout after a traffic jam a thousand miles away,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll.

This finding is broadly consistent with other polls, which have found that independents and Democrats previously attracted to Christie due to his moderate image have moved to other candidates in the wake of Bridge-gate revelations. That may damage one of Christie’s main pitches to conservative Republicans: He’s electable, so they should get on board.

Two other aspects of this survey bear mentioning:

First, it’s fun to pit candidates directly against this one or other, but right now this sort of polling is a kind of theoretical March Madness match-up. The manner in which the big-party nominees clinch their primary victories will affect their prospects in the general election.

Of course, Clinton’s doing pretty well against her fellow Democrats, too. The RealClearPolitics average of major surveys puts her about 58 percentage points up on possible party rivals at the moment.

On the Republican side, the RealClearPolitics rolling average has Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with a 1.7 point lead.

Second, Iowa? Yes, the Iowa caucus is the opening event of the real campaign season, so it’s notable in that way. The Quinnipiac folks were also polling for the Iowa US Senate race, so it’s not hard for them to tack on presidential questions.

Though Quinnipiac is a reputable pollster, these results are from one state in a national election that’s years away. Wrap all this together and you get the bottom line: Polls like these are kind of poli-tainment as much as truly indicative of what’s to come. 

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