WASHINGTON — The 2016 presidential election is far off, but an early sign indicates that Republicans could face trouble if Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden becomes the Democratic nominee, according to a new McClatchy-Marist poll.
The survey matched Clinton, the former secretary of state, and Vice President Biden against four potential Republican challengers. The Democrats easily beat Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.
Against New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, thought to be a long shot for the party’s presidential nomination, Clinton barely won and Biden barely lost.
The results provide fresh evidence that Republicans are still reeling from the 2012 election. The party thought it had a good chance to win the White House, but nominee Mitt Romney lost decisively to President Barack Obama. Republicans also lost seats in both houses of Congress.
“We’re seeing the aftermath of 2012 still casting a cloud on 2016,” said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the nationwide March 25-27 survey.
Clinton, who Miringoff said benefited from her stint at the State Department, was particularly strong in the poll, rolling up margins of 52-40 over Rubio, 52-41 over Paul and 54-38 over Bush. Biden topped Rubio, 53-39; Paul, 50-41 and Bush, 49-41.
Clinton and Biden both sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. Clinton came close and retains a sizable base of support, while Biden struggled and dropped out quickly.
Rubio, Paul and Bush have been prominent recently, appearing in political and media forums touting their views. Rubio and Paul are favorites of the party’s more conservative wing, and Paul is thought to have inherited a following from supporters of his father, Rep. Ron Paul, who ran for the White House last year.
Rubio and Paul, both first-term senators, have tried to broaden their appeal with calls for overhauling the nation’s immigration system.
Bush, who twice won election as Florida’s governor, had urged such change but shifted his view recently on the issue of whether to offer illegal immigrants a path to citizenship. He now argues that it could encourage more illegal immigration.
Christie, who faces re-election this year, has been on the presidential sidelines. He’s regarded with suspicion by that ultra-conservative wing – particularly since his praise of Obama last year for his help in aiding victims of Superstorm Sandy.
The poll suggests Christie would give Biden or Clinton a tougher race. Clinton has only a 46 percent to 43 percent lead, while Biden trails the New Jersey governor 46 percent to 43 percent. Christie is far ahead of Biden among independents, with a 47 percent to 35 percent edge, and loses that bloc to Clinton by only a 43 percent to 40 percent margin.