Sen. Marco Rubio leads all Republican presidential hopefuls in a new poll released Thursday morning, capturing some momentum in the weeks after he became the third major Republican to announce his presidential campaign.
The Florida senator garnered support from 15% of the registered Republicans polled by Quinnipiac University, giving him a slight edge over his mentor Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who won 13% of the vote in the poll.
Rubio also performed the best of all the potential Republican candidates in hypothetical head-to-head matchups against likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, trailing her by only two percentage points.
The poll — surveying national Republicans and coming nine months before the first votes will be cast in the Iowa caucuses — serves as a signal that Rubio has the potential to make a run at the nomination.
“This is the kind of survey that shoots adrenaline into a campaign,” said Tim Malloy, the assistant director of the poll, in a statement. “Marco Rubio gets strong enough numbers and favorability ratings to look like a legit threat to Hillary Clinton.”
Most early opinion polls have shown Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leading the Republican field. Walker earns bronze in the new Quinnipiac poll, with 11% of respondents saying they would vote for him. A significant number of Republican primary voters — 14% — said they didn’t know who they planned to support.
Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz earned 9% of the vote in the poll, and his Senate colleague from Kentucky, Rand Paul, won 8%. Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie tied with 7% support — the rest of the field earned 3% or less. The margin of error for Republicans in the survey is 4.1 percentage points.
The Quinnipiac findings track closely with a CNN/ORC poll issued this week, though Bush beats Rubio by 5 percentage points in that survey.
All GOP candidates in the Quinnipiac poll trail Clinton, but the difference between Rubio and the former secretary of state is the smallest in all one-on-one battles: two percentage points. Paul lost to Clinton in a hypothetical match-up by four points; Christie, Walker and Huckabee by 5; and Cruz and Bush by 7.
In the CNN/ORC poll, the differences between Clinton and her rivals are much wider, with Rubio faring best by keeping the distance to 14 percentage points. CNN/ORC polled all adults, rather than registered voters, and asked the head-to-head questions with different wordings than did Quinnipiac, which could factor into the varied findings.
On the Democratic side in the Quinnipiac survey, Clinton continues to widely pummel the rest of the field. Vice President Joe Biden, who has not said he is running for the presidency, trailed Clinton by 50 percentage points for second place. Yet a majority of those polled say Clinton is not honest and trustworthy, a poorer rating than some of her Republican rivals.
“Yes she is a leader, but can she be trusted? Mixed review for Hillary Clinton on key character traits,” Malloy said.
Quinnipiac surveued 1,354 registered voters on landlines and cell phones — about half of whom are Democrats and half of whom are Republicans — yielding an overall margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points.
Theodore Schleifer, CNN