Keiran Pedley asks if a Rubio / Christie ticket (with either at the top) might be the Republicanâ€™s best bet to defeat Hillary Clinton in 2016
It is fair to say that the race for the Republican 2016 nomination is an odd one. This really should be an election that the GOP can win and yet with the national polls showing Trump and Carson leading the GOP race most observers are pretty sceptical that either will last.Â Neither has held elected office and whilst this may be part of their charm now many suspect that this will wear off once the reality of choosing a Commander-in-Chief sets in among Republican voters.
Of course it is still very early â€“ as the twitter account @pastfrontrunner so aptly demonstrates by showing who was leading the polls at this time in the election cycle during past races.
At this point in — 2004: Dean +1 2008 (D): H. Clinton +21.8 (R): Giuliani +13.7 2012: Cain +2.5 https://t.co/8pTnsrwBv0
â€” Past Frontrunners (@pastfrontrunner) November 4, 2015
Perhaps then it is worth looking beyond the current leaders to see who might emerge.
As has been well-documented on this site, much of the â€˜smartâ€™ money is being placed on Marco Rubio to win the Republican nomination in the end. It is easy to see why. As a young, charismatic, Hispanic Senator from the key battleground state of Florida, he is a candidate that comes with many plusses.
Of course, one personâ€™s youth is anotherâ€™s inexperience and just because he is Hispanic (Cuban-American) does not mean he will fundamentally alter the commitment of that demographic to the Democratic Party. Nevertheless, he is a potentially formidable candidate and perhaps the only one in the Republican field that could beat Hillary Clinton. It is worth remembering that he wouldnâ€™t have to â€˜winâ€™ Hispanics but just make sufficient enough inroads into that vote to tip the overall balance in the Republicanâ€™s favour â€“ as Jorge Ramos points out on David Axlerodâ€™s podcast this week. Meanwhile, his assured performance versus Jeb Bush at last weekâ€™s GOP debate has only bolstered his chances further.
The dream ticket: Rubio / Christie?
If Rubio did win the nomination I think he could do a lot worse than choose New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as his running mate. Christie would offer a north / south balance to the ticket and could also offer the experience of being a two-term Governor in New Jersey to counter-balance Rubioâ€™s relative inexperience (at least in age) at the top of the ticket.
Christie also has a habit of surprising you.Â He is actually a lot more sensible than most give him credit for (honest). If you havenâ€™t seen it alreadyÂ you should watch his recent speech on drug addiction that has gone viral in the U.S. It really is impressive. I defy anyone to watch it and not look at him differently.
What about Christie / Rubio?
Could a Rubio / Christie ticket even be the other way round with Christie at the top and Rubio as his VP? It seems unlikely – especially if Christie gets bumped from next week’s Fox debate. Christie would Â also have to answer questions about his health and habit of going on theÂ odd unpleasant outburst in town hall meetingsÂ that might put some voters off. It is not hard to imagine the montage his opponents would put together for an attack ad asking whether or not Americans want his finger on the nuclear button.
Yet I still say do not write him off.Â Christie has shown he can win against the odds in the â€˜blue stateâ€™ of New Jersey and his handling of Hurricane Sandy showed he is effective in a crisis. His hugging of President Obama might rankle with some of the Republican grassroots but I suspect his ability to project a bipartisan tone would be welcome in the country more widely. Like Trump, Christie also has a tendency to â€˜tell it like it isâ€™ but at least with Christie it is backed up with Executive experience that means you could see him in the White House.
In all reality, Chris Christie probably wonâ€™t win the nomination himself. I am not sure how far his appeal travels south or west. However, in a race so fluid where he is polling reasonably well in New Hampshire he could still surprise people. He certainly can make the ticket. He may decide to drop out of course but if he can hang in there as others falter â€“ putting in the odd good debate performance as he goes â€“ I can see him doing well. As the Middle East descends into chaos I think more conventional candidates will emerge in the GOP race. Christieâ€™s challenge is to be heard among Republicans whilst making sure it is for the right reasons. If he does that his message of â€˜getting things doneâ€™, â€˜bipartisanshipâ€™ and being â€˜good in a crisisâ€™ could yet be a winning one. Regardless, I think some form of Rubio / Christie ticket is one for the Democrats to fear.
Keiran Pedley is an elections and polling expert at GfK and presents the Politicalbetting.com / Polling Matters podcast. You can follow Keiran on twitter at @keiranpedley