The early battle for the White House in 2016 mirrors the current state of the country’s two major parties – Democrats are united while Republicans are divided.
According to a new NBC News poll, Democrats are heavily united behind Hillary Clinton as their nominee in three years. But Republican Gov. Chris Christie, fresh off a landslide re-election in New Jersey, would have to muscle through a likely fractious GOP primary before starting as the underdog against the former secretary of state.
Sixty-six percent of Democrats say they would back Clinton in a Democratic presidential primary, while just 16 percent say they would want another candidate.
And her support is widespread and solid among nearly all groups – she tops 70% among women, seniors, those who make under $30,000, and voters in the Northeast and Midwest. Clinton doesn’t drop below 60% in any major demographic group, but her lowest numbers are among men (62%), college graduates (62%) upper-income voters who make over $75,000 (60%) and voters in the South and West.
The Republican primary outlook is far from the Democrats’ show of unity – a 32% plurality of GOP voters say they would back Christie, but a near even 31% prefer someone else.
Christie’s support is largely from his own Northeastern geographic base, where voters say they want Christie by a 57%-22% margin – a positive sign for a New Hampshire primary. But his support slips in other key regions – he only leads among Midwest voters 35%-30%, while 29% of voters in the South say they would vote for Chrsitie but 27% want someone else. In the West, 40% would back Christie compared with 22% for another candidate. Among men, Christie only scores 28%, and just 15% of younger voters between 18 and 29 say they would back Christie.
But Christie’s biggest hurdle may not be emerging from a divided GOP primary if it’s Clinton waiting in the wings in a general election. In a hypothetical match-up, Clinton leads Christie by 10 points, 44%-34%, with a coalition that’s strikingly similar to the 2012 Obama vs. Romney battle.
Clinton also leads Christie in key demographic blocs where Republicans have had trouble making inroads – even if Christie was successful in his re-election last week. She crushes the GOP governor among African American voters, 83%-4%, with Hispanic voters, 44%-33%, and among independent voters (39%-35%). She also leads in every regional breakdown: Northeast (52%-35%0, the West (43%-30%), Midwest (41%-37%) and even in the South (43%-35%).
The only bright spots for Christie is with traditionally strong GOP groups: white voters (41%-37%), seniors (44%-41%) and high income voters (46%-34%).
The NBC News survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research from Nov. 7-10 among 1,003 adults (margin of error of +/-3.6%), 428 Democrats or lean Democrat voters (+/-5.5% margin of error) and 394 Republican or lean Republican voters (+/- 5.8% margin of error).