Why Rand Paul Is Not the “2016 GOP Front-Runner,” in One Chart

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 11 2014 2:55 PM

Why Rand Paul Is Not the “2016 GOP Front-Runner,” in One Chart

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Be wary of the poll numbers

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images

You frequently see trial heats of a 2016 Republican primary come out with numbers like 16 percent for Rand Paul and 15 percent for Chris Christie. The headlines turn out like this: "Rand Paul is 2016 GOP front-runner," or "Rand Paul is 2016 Man to Beat." This often feels like an overstating of poll numbers that can be explained by margins of error.

I'm fond of this question in the new University of New Hampshire poll, and what it reveals about the acuity of polling 18 months before the primary.

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Thirty-nine percent is exactly what Romney got in the 2012 primary—when Rep. Ron Paul scored a strong 23 percent, for second place. No one thinks that Romney will run again, but if you want to analyze these numbers at all, you have to see that 1) voters have not tuned in yet and 2) it's naive to think that Rand Paul starts a 2016 race with all of his father's support to build on.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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