2016 presidential candidates seeking support from the Republican establishment previously faced only one issue, a crowded field vying for the same group of donors and supporters. Now they face two: a crowded field and a disapproving primary base.
According to a December 2015 NBC/WSJ poll of New Hampshire Republican primary voters, establishment candidates have, for the most part, been viewed unfavorably:
- 64% said they could see themselves supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, while 29% could not (+35)
- 43% said they could see themselves supporting New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, while 50% could not (-7)
- 45% said they could see themselves supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, while 53% could not (-8)
- 22% said they could see themselves supporting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, while 53% could not (-31)
These numbers may be indicative of the flaws primary voters see in the candidates. Christie has raised relatively little (amounting to $1.4 million in the bank as of September's filing period), expanded Medicaid in New Jersey, and continues to be hounded by the hug he shared with President Barack Obama while dealing with the impact of Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Kasich, too, has little cash on hand ($2.7 million) and expanded Medicaid in Ohio. Bush, despite having a vast campaign war chest and spending nearly $23 million on TV ads in New Hampshire, continues to suffer from single digits in the polls.
At this point in the primary season, with the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries less than a month away, these numbers may very well translate out to a victory for Senator Rubio, for whom a projected strong showing in the first two primary states would swing the bulk of establishment support in his favor.
With this in mind, Rubio would do well to ramp up his campaign presence in Iowa and New Hampshire, both of which had been widely ignored by the Rubio camp until just recently.