Election 2016 lookahead: Would Hillary Clinton really crush Jeb Bush?

If the 2016 presidential election were held today between Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush, it would be a Clinton landslide, a poll shows. But that's not the troubling data for Mr. Bush. 

(L.-r.) Jin Lee/AP/File, Wilfredo Lee/AP/File
Hillary Clinton has a wide lead over Jeb Bush in a head-to-head presidential match-up, poll shows.

Hillary Rodham Clinton has a wide lead over Jeb Bush in a head-to-head presidential match-up, according to new numbers from a Washington Post/ABC News poll. When survey respondents were asked who they’d vote for if the election were held today, 53 percent picked Mrs. Clinton, versus the 41 percent who said their choice would be Mr. Bush.

That’s a pretty hefty cushion for the former US secretary of State, isn’t it? It’s particularly impressive if you run through the poll's cross-tabs and look at the different demographic groups those numbers represent. Clinton gets 94 percent of Democrats, a plurality of 47 percent of independents, 59 percent of moderates, even 25 percent of self-described conservatives. She gets 59 percent of women, to Bush’s 36 percent.

Should Bush, a former Florida governor, be worried about these figures, assuming he’s interested in running for president? No, not really. (There’s other stuff about the current political landscape that should concern him, though. We’ll talk about that in a bit.)

First, it’s just one poll. As we wrote Tuesday about President Obama’s approval numbers, individual polls represent a single snapshot, and you need a full photo album to get a picture about what’s really going on.

Second, the numbers will change. The Post/ABC numbers include all registered voters, which is a wide net to cast. When the election approaches, pollsters will query likely voters, a narrower demographic that tends to increase the Republican lean by a few percentage points.

But the real reason to not take these results too seriously is that it’s just so early that it’s even kind of silly to list three reasons the numbers are kind of squishy.

This far from an election, polls on matchups, even those involving well-known names such as “Clinton” and “Bush,” have little predictive power. That explains why we don’t talk about “President Rudy Giuliani” or “President Jerry Brown,” writes Allison Kopicki at The New York Times “Upshot” explanatory site. Both were early frontrunners in their day, basically because of high name recognition. Neither did well after real campaigns began.

That said, Bush might not be too happy about his overall poll ratings at the moment. In his own party, he’s not a front-runner. In the Post/ABC poll, he’s basically tied with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky for the lead among GOP voters, at 14 percent. Ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and US Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are right on their heels, at 13 and 11 percent, respectively.

The RealClearPolitics average of major polls has the about the same results for the GOP nomination, with the exception that Bush trails Senator Paul and Mr. Huckabee by a statistically insignificant one point.

Worse, from Bush’s point of view, is that his likeability numbers aren’t great. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll puts them underwater, with 21 percent of respondents saying they have a favorable view of Jeb Bush, and 32 percent unfavorable.

“His approval ratings are worse now than they were a year ago,” writes Aliyah Frumin of MSNBC.

The Bush political brand is well-known to US voters. This measure may be more solid than the notional match-up numbers, early in the race.

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