Scott Walker leads in new Iowa poll; Bush in trouble

A new Des Moines Register poll of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates shows Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker narrowly leading a crowded field with 15%.

Jeb Bush - the candidate expected to benefit most from Mitt Romney's withdrawal - sits at 8%, behind Rand Paul (14%), Mike Huckabee (10%), and Ben Carson (9%). The poll was conducted before Mitt Romney announced he wasn't running. The 2012 GOP nominee received 12% in the poll.

Huckabee has the highest favorable/unfavorable ratings at 66-28%. But Walker's favorable  numbers climbed 10% and he has the best differential between favorable and unfavorable at 60-12%.

One interesting question asked in the poll:

Sixty percent say it's more important to vote for the person who aligns with their values, even if that candidate isn't electable, compared with 36 percent who say winning the White House for Republicans is more important.

A majority — 51 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers — would prefer an anti-establishment candidate without a lot of ties to Washington or Wall Street who would change the way things are done and challenge conventional thinking. That compares to 43 percent who think the better leader would be a mainstream establishment candidate with executive experience who understands business and how to execute ideas, the new poll shows.

For respondents who say they want an establishment candidate, Romney is their first choice. With Romney out of the picture, Walker leads. Huckabee is next, then Bush.

Among those who want an anti-establishment candidate, Paul is the favorite, followed by Walker and Carson.

The vote share is spread thinly across the 16 contenders, but with a large field, the Iowa caucuses could be won with less than 20 percent, political strategists say.

At this point, you would have to say that the numbers favors those candidates who can straddle the chasm between the tea party and the establishment. That would include Walker, Rubio, and Rick Perry. It won't be as important in Iowa as it will be in later primary states, but if donors are looking for both electability and conservative values, any one of those three candidates would fill the bill.

The Walker boomlet in Iowa isn't so much of a surprise when you consider Wisconsin is a neigboring state and the national exposure he got in his battles with the public unions made him a much admired figure on the right. How he translates that exposure into a campaign will say a lot about his abilities.



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