2016 Insiders: Bush, Walker in Front-Runner Fight; Hillary a Shoo-In


jeb-bushWisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush are the front-runners among a wide field of potential 2016 GOP candidates, but Walker will likely not be able to sustain his recent bounce in the polls, according to more than 100 political insiders surveyed by Politico.

The activists, operatives and elected officials in Iowa and New Hampshire agreed to answer a weekly survey going into the 2016 election, giving a direct glimpse into how the race is unfolding.

“The consensus across this group is that Hillary Clinton is almost guaranteed to become the Democratic nominee. Only four of 70 who answered guessed that a Democrat other than Clinton will ultimately win their state,” Politico said.

On the Republican side, Politico said there is widespread agreement that the GOP field is wide open, but in New Hampshire, there is the sense that Bush would win if the primary were held this week, though it was premature to label him the front-runner.

In Iowa, six out of 10 insiders surveyed said they believe Walker would win the caucuses if they were held this week. Just two of the 32 people who responded, however, believe Walker will ultimately prevail.

“He will now go through a scrutiny that will determine how prepared he is to sustain this frontrunner status,” one Iowa Republican told Politico.

Politico listed 9 key takeaways from its first weekly survey:

1. Jeb Bush and Scott Walker are fighting for front-runner status, but neither has it. The insiders believe that while the GOP field is stronger than 2012, any of a number of candidates could emerge as the ultimate nominee. Walker got a boost from his speech in Iowa but Bush draws more media interest.

2. International affairs will play a large role in the 2016 election. Half of those interviewed said the economy would be the defining issue of the campaign, but the next most frequently cited issue was foreign policy and/or national security.

3. Rand Paul is winning the GOP ground war. The majority of those surveyed in both New Hampshire and Iowa said Paul has the most robust organization on the ground, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben Caron and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
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4. Insiders are split about whether the Bush name is an asset or liability to Jeb. Most Democrats think it will hold him back but Republicans are evenly divided. “It is a wash if Jeb gets out and shows he is his own person,” said one uncommitted Iowa Republican, according to Politico, while another said, “Bush fatigue is a real issue.”

5. Age is more likely to be a problem for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, rather than gender. Six out of 10 insiders said the former first lady’s age would likely be more of a liability to her campaign than her gender, and the rest said neither. “Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton are the same age, but that won’t stop someone like, say, Rand Paul, whose father ran for president in his mid-70s, from trying to make it a thing,” a New Hampshire Democrat told Politico.

6. Clinton will almost certainly secure the Democrat nomination. Almost everyone surveyed from both parties thinks Clinton will win in both early states, but that she will need to make a significant investment on the ground. “It seems very unlikely that anyone in the primary field as of now could come near her,” an Iowa Democrat told Politico. “Nobody sees that changing, and Iowa Democrats are equal parts bored and furious about it.”

7. Republicans think Texas Sen. Ted Cruz will emerge as the favorite of social conservatives. Among the GOP insiders, twice as many picked Cruz to become the leading social conservative than anyone else, even though former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee won in the past and are running again.

“I think in the short term it will be Ted Cruz,” an Iowa Republican told Politico. “In the long term I think a guy like Santorum will emerge again because of his ability to weave” his moral beliefs through an array of social and pocketbook issues.

8. Scott Walker not having graduated from college may be part of the political buzz recently, but will not be an issue during his campaign. Though some said they believed it could hurt his prospects, others believe it will enhance his “regular guy” image.

9. Former President Bill Clinton will be a bigger help to Hillary Clinton’s campaign than President Barack Obama. This view is held by both Democrats and Republicans, Politico said.

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