Poll: Rubio leads GOP pack for 2016

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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush tied Ryan, the GOP's 2012 vice presidential nominee, at 12 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee rounded out the top five with 11 percent, with former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (8 percent), former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (7 percent), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (7 percent) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (4 percent) rounding out the field.

Rubio's lead can be attributed to his popularity among strong conservatives, among the most likely to vote in a presidential primary. According to the poll, the Florida lawmaker pulls 23 percent of those who identify as "very conservative," besting Ryan's 17 percent and Huckabee's 13 percent.

Christie, who has weathered intense criticism within the GOP for his embrace of President Obama after Hurricane Sandy, would be the choice of centrist voters in the Republican electorate. Christie is the choice for 35 percent of self-described moderates, versus 20 percent for Bush and 11 percent for Huckabee.

Still, the long odds Christie may now face for the nomination are underscored in a separate survey question, which asked GOP voters if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each of the potential candidates. Christie's net 21-point positive favorability was dead last among Republican candidates, dwarfed by Ryan's 74-15 percent favorability rating. Huckabee, Rice, and Rubio also posted net favorability ratings of more than 50 percentage points.

For Democrats, Hillary Clinton remains the dominant favorite if she decides to mount a presidential run in 2016.

Clinton is the choice for more than six in 10 Democratic voters, vastly outpacing Vice President Biden, who is the choice of just 12 percent of those surveyed. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pulls 5 percent of the electorate, Sen.-elect Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts earns 4 percent, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley is the choice for 2 percent of voters. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Montana Gov. Brain Schweitzer and Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia each only earn 1 percent support from those surveyed.

If neither Clinton nor Biden runs, the race for the Democratic nomination seems wide open. Only Cuomo and Warren are known by more than half of Democratic voters, and 45 percent say they don't know who they would choose if the top two candidates elected against running.

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