Hawkeyes, give it up for the Big Gov. Chris Christie, New Jersey’s bombastic Republican governor, narrowly leads the field in Iowa two years ahead of that state’s GOP caucuses for the 2016 presidential election, according to the latest Conservative Intel poll of the state.
Christie, who leads among likely Republican caucusgoers by dint of a split conservative field, is also the only Republican who currently leads former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, D, in a general election matchup. The last time a Republican won Iowa was 2004 — also the last time President Obama wasn’t on the ballot.
The poll, conducted by Harper Polling over the weekend, shows Christie with 17 percent support, just slightly ahead of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 16 percent. In third is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (13 percent), whose father placed third in the 2012 caucuses.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who won the Iowa caucuses in 2012, still maintains a substantial following in Iowa. He draws 11 percent support. Behind him are two potential candidates from neighboring Wisconsin — House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (9 percent) and Gov. Scott Walker (7 percent), and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (6 percent).
Sixty-nine percent of the Republicans surveyed described themselves as conservative, versus 24 percent who are moderate. The conservatives are in Cruz’s camp, giving him 23 percent support, with Christie and Paul both trailing at 12 percent each. Moderates prefer Christie (28 percent), with Paul in second place (17 percent).
Christie enjoys his best numbers by far — 28 percent — among young voters age 18 to 35. Cruz does best (21 percent) among those age 36 to 50.
Within the larger sample of 985 likely voters, Christie wins 43 percent against Hillary Clinton’s 38 percent. Clinton scores in the high 40s against other Republican candidates, which suggests many Iowans who might otherwise vote for her are reserving judgment in case Christie is the GOP nominee.
Still, all of the Republicans tested in the survey are within single digits of Clinton. She leads Cruz, 47 to 40 percent, and Paul 47 to 41 percent. She also leads 45 to 41 percent against Rubio and 46 to 43 percent against Ryan.
Clinton does not perform significantly better among women than men, but larger gaps exist for the Republican candidates. Christie leads Clinton in the survey among both women (41 to 39 percent) and men (45 to 37 percent). Cruz’s gender gap is four points, Ryan’s six, and Paul and Rubio both do eight points better among men than among women.
The poll’s other results, released Monday, are available here.