WASHINGTON – Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the most popular potential presidential candidate for the Iowa Republican Caucus, according to a poll released Wednesday.
From a list of 14 candidates, 21 percent of likely GOP caucus participants said they support Walker in the poll that was conducted by Quinnipiac University.
In a close race for second place, Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida each had support from 13 percent of those polled. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz received 12 percent, and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee drew 11 percent.
“Those four are all bunched together,” Peter Brown, the assistant director of the poll, said. “They are obviously contenders.”
David Yepsen, who had a 34 year career with the Des Moines Register as the paper’s chief political writer, said he thinks Walker has higher poll results in Iowa compared to his national popularity because he is from a neighboring Midwest state. Yepsen said the results are both good news and bad news for Walker.
“Being out front this early in the race becomes a position he has to maintain,” Yepsen, the director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, said. “Expectations for him are now raised.”
Rubio has moved from the back of the race to the front ever since he launched his campaign in Miami last month. His popularity among the Iowa voters who were polled has grown seven points since the last poll, conducted in February. The junior senator has room to grow in the predominantly Republican state, as 69 percent of those polled agreed that he is a “favorable” candidate, even more so than Walker, who scored 59 percent.
Despite being a popular candidate nationwide, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush ranked seventh in the poll. Only 5 percent of the 667 participants said they supported him if they “had to choose today.”
Yepsen said Bush has his work cut out for him, at least in Iowa.
“Some people don’t want to vote another Bush into office,” Yepsen said. “I just get a sense that a lot of the Republicans are looking for something fresh and new.”
Although Bush hasn’t officially announced his campaign, he ranked as the highest Republican candidate in a nationwide poll released last week by NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.
Brown said that, while the Iowa poll results are not particularly good for Bush, he thinks that his approach to the state is different from the other candidates.
“Everyone else is spending most of their time in Iowa, but Bush has only made one trip there,” Brown said. “He’s taking a more national approach.”
Iowa caucus goers are generally conservative. Huckabee drew the most votes in 2008, and Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney finished in a virtual tie in 2012 – Santorum drew about 30 more votes.
Quinnipiac surveyed Iowans from April 25 to Monday. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.8 percentage points.
The poll was conducted just before Ben Carson, Huckabee and Carly Fiorina announced their candidacies.
The other candidates listed in the survey were Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry and Santorum.
The date of the Iowa caucuses has been tentatively set for Feb. 1, 2016.
Reach reporter Kathleen Devaney at [email protected] or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.