Poll: Christie, Cruz tops in South Carolina 2016 primary; Graham unpopular but safe for now

Written by . Posted in 2014 Campaigns, Polling

Published on October 30, 2013

CI ChristieOn the eve of his expected landslide re-election victory in New Jersey, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, R, leads the field for South Carolina’s First in the South GOP 2016 presidential primary, a new Conservative Intel poll finds.

With the backing of 19 percent of likely GOP primary voters, Christie narrowly leads a field that includes Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (17 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (13 percent), Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (12 percent), and 2012 vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisc. (Full topline results here.) Christie draws most of his lead from self-described moderates, 45 percent of whom back him. (Crosstabs for GOP primary voters.)

As noted yesterday, the same poll, conducted by Harper Polling, finds Christie and Rubio both leading Democratic former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical general election matchup, and Cruz trailing her by one point, well within the margin of error.

In the state’s regularly scheduled Senate election for 2014, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R, holds a commanding lead in the primary, with 51 percent of the vote, just above the threshold he’d need to avoid a runoff against the second-place finisher. Graham’s closest competition is state Sen. Lee Bright, who pulls in 15 percent. Tied at 4 percent a piece are businessman Richard Cash, 2010 lieutenant governor also-ran Bill Connor, and businesswoman Nancy Mace, the first female to graduate from The Citadel.

Graham’s largely unknown challengers may find some hope in the fact that they have room to grow and he is relatively unpopular statewide. Only 37 percent of likely voters view him favorably, whereas 44 percent view him unfavorably. Yet he remains popular among registered Republicans, with a fav/unfav of 55 percent to 34 percent. Among independent voters, who can also vote in the GOP primary, Graham is viewed unfavorably by 45 percent and favorably by only 31 percent. (Full sample crosstabs here.)

The state’s other Senator, Tim Scott, R, was appointed in 2012 by Gov. Nikki Haley, R, and must run in a special election in November 2014. Scott is far better-liked among Republicans than Graham — 60 percent view him favorably and only 12 percent unfavorably.

In the race for Graham’s seat, the poll tested both Graham and Mace against Jay Stamper, the only Democrat in the race so far. Graham leads him 47 to 30 percent. Mace leads 40 to 33 percent.