CNN 2016 Poll: Clinton favored for Democrats; no clear GOP leader

By Paul Steinhauser CNN Political Editor   WASHINGTON (CNN) – A new national poll in the battle for the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential nominations indicates what you would expect: Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming Democratic frontrunner, and there’s no real leader among the possible GOP White House hopefuls.   But if you get beyond the obvious, the CNN/ORC International survey released Monday becomes more revealing.   It showed 65 percent of Democrats and independents who lean toward that party say they would likely back Clinton as their presidential nominee. Vice President Joe Biden comes in a distant second, at 10 percent, with freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 7 percent, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo at 6 percent, and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley at 2 percent.   The CNN survey is in line with previous polls from other organizations conducted earlier this year that indicated Clinton, who has not said whether she’ll run, is far ahead of all the other possible Democratic candidates.   Even though the next race for the White House is a long way away, there’s already intense speculation over whether the former secretary of state will make a second bid for president.   As with previous surveys this year, the new CNN poll also indicates no GOP frontrunner.   Seventeen percent of Republicans and Independents who lean toward the GOP say they are likely to support New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, with 16 percent backing Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee.   Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is at 13 percent; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 10 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida at 9 percent; Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 7 percent, and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate who battled eventual nominee Mitt Romney deep into the primary season, at 5 percent.   Rubio’s number stands out. The first-term senator, considered a rock star among many Republicans, registered in the upper teens in polls of the possible GOP 2016 horserace conducted by other organizations earlier this year.   But Rubio’s support of immigration reform – he was a high profile member of a bipartisan group of senators who pushed immigration reform passage through the Senate this spring – may have hurt his standing with many conservative voters opposed to such efforts. Santorum’s 5 percent is also interesting.   “It’s often said – and it’s usually true – that polls taken years before the first presidential primaries are mostly tests of name recognition. But clearly (it’s) something more than name recognition when it comes to Santorum,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.   “Santorum is well-known to GOP voters – he had months of national exposure in the 2012 primaries, and since the start of the modern primary system in the 1970s, the GOP has tended to nominate the candidate who was the runner-up the last time the party had an open race for the nomination. But Santorum is not just in the middle of the pack – he is currently running dead last out of the eight candidates tested,” adds Holland.   Christie may be on top of the list, but he’s not first in the minds of conservatives, who dominate more moderate Republicans in the GOP primaries and caucuses.   According to the poll, only 8 percent of Republicans who consider themselves conservatives say they would be likely to back Christie, compared to 28 percent of self-described moderate Republicans.   In the potential Democratic battle, the survey indicates Clinton performing better with women (76 percent) than men (52 percent). And Biden scores higher with voters age 50 and older (18 percent) than those younger than 50 (5 percent).   With the start of the primary and caucus calendar more than two years off, take this survey and others with a grain of salt. “Polls taken two to three years before an election have absolutely no predictive value,” adds Holland. “Do not treat this as a prediction of what will happen in 2016.”   The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International September 6-8, with 1,022 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error for Democratic and GOP primary questions is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.   The sample included 218 respondents who describe themselves as Republicans and 234 who describe themselves as independents who lean towards GOP, for a total of 452 Republicans, and 311 respondents who describe themselves as Democrats and 137 who describe themselves as independents who lean Democratic, for a total of 448 Democrats.