Walker, Paul Leads in Iowa Poll

February 1, 2015 Updated: February 1, 2015

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and Senator Rand Paul top the 2016 GOP field among Iowans, with Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson trailing not too far behind, according to a new poll conducted last week.

The Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register poll has Walker as the first choice for president among 15 percent of Iowan GOP voters, Paul at 14 percent, and Huckabee, who won Iowa in 2008, at 10 percent.

Walker formed an exploratory committee for a 2016 presidential campaign last week.

The two potential candidates with the most clout among the party establishment fared poorly, with Jeb Bush being the favorite of only 8 percent of respondents, Chris Christie just 4 percent. Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz did slightly better at 5 percent.

Bush and Christie also had the highest unfavorability ratings of the 16 candidates in the poll, at 43 and 54 percent respectively, apart from Donald Trump, whom 68% of respondents found unfavorable.

Mitt Romney, who said last Friday that he would not run in 2016, was the top choice for 13 percent of respondents. His support will likely split among the other candidates favored by the establishment.

“It just opens up opportunities for people like Christie and Walker in particular to pick up money [from Romney’s donors,]” said David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers who has written a book on the Iowa caucuses.

The same poll predictably found that Hillary Clinton was the front-runner among Democrats in Iowa, being the first choice among 53 percent of respondents. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is second at 10 percent, but has stated that she’s not running.

One concern for the Iowa Democrats is that an uncontested caucus in 2016 would sap energy from the party base, which relies on heated competitions as an opportunity to fund-raise and recruit new activists.

“When you have a competitive cause, you have a lot more going on, and the candidates tend to be supportive of Iowa, the Iowa party, the Iowa candidates,” Redlawsk said. “The parties sell their lists to candidates, they make real money doing that.”

But even more important than fundraising, an uncompetitive race can hurt the local parties’ recruitment efforts.

“A competitive caucus activates the base, that’s good for the rest of the year. It allow you to identify the kinds of folks who will get out to work for the candidates,” Redlawsk said.

Still, it remains too early for Iowa Democrats to lament over an uncontested primary. Joe Biden has previously said there was a chance he might run in 2016, and media titan Rupert Murdoch asserted Sunday that the vice president is “actively preparing” to run against Hillary.