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Iowa weighs in on 2016 hopefuls in new poll

Iowa Republicans voiced their support for Mitt Romney's running mate Paul Ryan—and their opposition to Gov. Chris Christie—in a new, 2016-oriented poll.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks after receiving the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2013.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks after receiving the Tom Lantos Human Rights Prize in Washington, D.C., Dec. 6, 2013.

A new poll is shedding light on how Iowa voters feel about potential 2016 candidates. Former vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan leads the Republican pack, and on the Democratic side, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton is the clear frontrunner. 

A year after the last presidential election, Iowa – that kingmaker state with its oddball caucus system—appears to favor known quantities. 

Ryan, who voted for an unpopular government shutdown but then successfully negotiated a very limited budget deal, seems to have been rewarded rather than punished. Clinton, who was passed over in 2008 for the excitement of a newcomer in Barack Obama, stands a better chance now.

None of these candidates have announced whether or not they’ll run, but the new new Des Moines Register poll is shedding light on what the 2016 candidates pool might look like.

The poll found Ryan to be extremely popular, with 73% of Iowa Republicans favoring the Wisconsin Republican. Still, Ryan who failed to electrify the candidacy of Mitt Romney in 2012, will face formidable foes in Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who ranked second and third respectively in the poll.

More so than any other candidate mentioned in the poll, Hillary Clinton is feeling the love—and hate—from each side.

The former secretary of state was showered with favorable ratings by Iowa Democrats—89% said they had a positive opinion of Clinton.

But just as her party loves her, Republicans really hate her—59% of Republicans had a “very unfavorable” view (the most negative rating possible) of Clinton. 

Vice President Joe Biden also was ranked popular with Iowa Democrats—71% gave him a popular opinion.

Faring much worse is another much-speculated 2016 candidate, Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor is already struggling in Iowa, according to the poll. His favorability rating is comparatively lower—just 51% of Iowa Republicans rated him positively—and he earned the most conservative ire, with 30% of Iowa Republicans rating him unfavorably.

Christie recently took over as the head of the Republican Governor’s Association, a position that will give him the opportunity to travel the country and try his political brand outside of New Jersey.

Christie’s no nonsense style and willingness to take on extremists in his own party has turned him into a conservative celebrity and a media darling, while compromises and legislative progress has earned him high approval ratings in his own state.     

But Ryan may be edging in on that territory. Last week, he staked his claim as a compromiser who can make things happen, when the budget deal he negotiated with Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray passed in the House with overwhelming conservative support.

"The real reason why so many Republicans were in favor of this deal is Paul Ryan," NBC News' Chuck Todd said of the deal.

“Paul Ryan is the Jesus of our conference. If Paul gives something his blessing, it brings the votes,” a senior Republican leadership aide told Buzzfeed last week.

The poll surveyed 650 Iowans over 18 between Dec. 8 -11th by Selzer % Co. It has a margin of error of +/- 7.3% for Republicans and +/- 8%.