by Matthew Rusling
As the 2016 Republican Party (GOP) nominee contest shapes up, most of the candidates are not as well-known as those in past elections, which could be a problem for the party to win the U.S. presidential race, Gallup found in a poll released Monday.
At the outset of the 2016 campaign, the GOP lacks the star power of prior campaigns in having a very well-known and highly popular candidate as the nomination front-runner. That may mean that the Republicans could be in for a protracted nomination battle as a number of similarly rated candidates vie for votes, Gallup found.
However, early popularity is also by no means a guarantee of campaign success. For example, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s popularity at the beginning of the 2008 campaign, likely related to his well-regarded handling of the 9/11 terror attacks, faded during a lackluster campaign that saw him struggle to gain a foothold among Republican voters, Gallup said.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and Florida Senator Marco Rubio edge out several other Republicans in their net favorable ratings — the percentage of Republicans who view each favorably minus the percentage who view each unfavorably. But their scores pale in comparison with those for former President George W. Bush early in the 2000 campaign, Gallup found.
A major factor in potential 2016 candidates’ historically weaker net favorable ratings is that none among this group of candidates is as well-known as the early front-runners in the past.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush is the best known of the potential 2016 GOP candidates, with 76 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents familiar enough with Bush to have an opinion of him.
Rubio currently has very low familiarity scores, comparable to those of Arizona Senator John McCain in the 2000 campaign and GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the 2008 campaign. Both McCain and Romney emerged as key contenders in those campaigns, but ultimately came up short for the nomination.
However, their strong performances set them up for a run in the next presidential election, with McCain winning the 2008 GOP nomination and Romney the 2012 nomination.
From a candidate perspective, being unknown is better than being unpopular. Right now, being unknown is the greater challenge for Rubio, with roughly half of the party rank-and-file unfamiliar with him, Gallup found.
Although they are by no means unpopular with the GOP base, the better-known Jeb Bush and Huckabee do have higher unfavorable ratings among Republicans than most other contenders, according to Gallup.
Bush and Huckabee still have work to do to become better known among the GOP base, but also would need to work to reduce their unfavorable ratings, or at least keep them from swelling, Gallup said. Enditem