The Republican presidential primary field is the most crowded it’s been in years, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush seems to be leading the pack in one key state. A CNN/WMUR New Hampshire Primary poll Thursday found Bush ahead of his opponents, with candidate Donald Trump trailing just a few points behind.
Bush drew 16 percent of New Hampshire voters’ support in Thursday's poll. Trump was in second place at 11 percent. That’s consistent with a Suffolk University poll released Tuesday that found Bush at the top with 14 percent of respondents’ support, followed by Trump at 11 percent.
The low figures underscore the uncertainty of the Republican primary race amid a bloated field of candidates. There are 14 major contenders who have announced their candidacy in the Republican primary, the latest being Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, but there are 98 people registered with the Federal Election Commission as Republican candidates. The largest group of respondents in CNN’s poll – 21 percent – said they weren’t sure which candidate they supported.
But when asked which Republican candidate had the best chance of winning the 2016 presidential election, 37 percent chose Bush, far more support than any other candidate received. Only 7 percent chose Trump, and another 7 percent chose Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. Twenty-nine percent of respondents said they weren’t sure.
Still, Bush’s standing in New Hampshire contrasts with polls conducted among Republican voters in Iowa. According to RealClearPolitics, Bush averages only 8.5 percent of voters’ support there, whereas Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker leads with 18.3 percent.
Despite Trump's his second-place billing in New Hampshire, Republican voters don’t seem to be clamoring for him. When asked their opinions of the real estate mogul, 38 percent of voters chose favorable, while 48 percent chose unfavorable. Trump announced his bid for the presidency June 16, a day after Bush’s announcement. The outspoken billionaire immediately made waves with a 45-minute speech that in part railed against “rapists” coming into the U.S. over the Mexican border – a remark that contrasted with Bush’s more conciliatory immigration stance and support for creating pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Meanwhile, a separate CNN/WMUR poll also released Thursday showed Hillary Clinton leading the Democratic vote in New Hampshire, but by a slimmer margin than before. Clinton was only 8 percentage points ahead of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, whereas she had been 21 points ahead of him in May. But nationwide, Clinton is still the strongest contender in the Democratic field: A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC survey found Clinton with 75 percent of Democratic voters’ support, while Sanders, in second place, received only 15 percent.