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Bob Sparks: When likability and the desire for leadership and experience collide

Fifteen months before the presidential election, New Hampshire and Iowa is where the action is. That is true every four years.

Winning the nomination and the general election requires a strong performance in several key states. In 2016, the next president will have won at least two of a group of three swing states that includes Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. There is no plausible path to 270 electoral votes without two of those states.

Quinnipiac University not only took the temperature of those three states recently, they conducted a full checkup. The results give a clear picture of where the race stands now.

They show that Hillary Clinton is in serious trouble, which will only get worse if Vice President Joe Biden gets into the race. In many areas, the Democrats get their best polling results from Florida, not dependable Democratic-leaning Pennsylvania.

This poll shows people personally like Biden and Dr. Ben Carson. Biden scores well in every category, while Carson comes up short only in “experience.”

The negatives coming Donald Trump’s way show his support comes from a fraction of the Republican Party. Trump polled the highest at 28 percent against the GOP field. Among respondents, 72 percent are looking elsewhere.

Voters might agree with some, or many, of a candidate’s positions, but they want to vote for someone they like. In a close election, too many might stay at home if the nominee does not make them want to get out and vote.

In these vital states, Clinton receives double-digit majorities among voters who hold unfavorable views of her. Biden is viewed favorably by double-digit majorities with U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders earning small pluralities on the positive side.

With all that has come out recently, it is no wonder Clinton is distrusted by most respondents, while Biden earns high marks in this category while Sanders earns a small majority.

Democrats own the category of caring about “people like you,” but not Hillary. A majority feels she does not care, while Biden earns large majorities as one who does care. Sanders earned small pluralities.

Clinton scores well in the area of “leadership qualities,” approaching Biden’s positive numbers, with Sanders earning respectable numbers.

Besides her email problems, Clinton has another negative. Through the work of people like Peter Schweizer and his book, Clinton Cash, many persuadable voters now fully understand she is rich. That lifestyle is a regular target of liberal dogma and makes it nearly impossible for her to attack those in her tax bracket.

Like Clinton, Jeb Bush has some problems with favorables among those who do not know him. He is OK in Florida, but has large deficits in the other two states.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Carly Fiorina show double-digit positives, while Donald Trump has unfavorable ratings in the high 50s. Dr. Ben Carson has large pluralities among those who know of him.

A majority view Bush as honest and trustworthy, while Rubio, Fiorina and Carson earn big majorities among those familiar with them. A majority do no trust Trump. Carson, Fiorina and Rubio score well in the area of “cares” while Bush nearly breaks even and Trump earns low marks.

With all these personal likeability characteristics processed, people are still hungry for presidential leadership that long ago left the table.

Clinton and Biden earn majorities in the “strong leadership qualities” category with Sanders less so. Trump earns his only positive ratings with big numbers in this area, while all Republicans polled well.

The GOP primary voters’ elevation of candidates opposing the “Establishment” confounds the “right kind of experience” category. Clinton has large majorities in this area and Biden even larger. Sanders is under water.

Among the Republicans, only Bush polls well in this area, nearly matching Clinton’s numbers (but not Biden’s). All other Republicans show negative results.

As Biden nears a decision about whether to get in, Clinton must be planning what to do or say if he does. Her team would be wise to remember that Biden is popular at this moment.

Whether voters agree with him on the issues, or they want another choice, or they wish good things for him after the loss of his son, they like him. If he does join the race, especially if he would bring U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren with him to the ticket, Clinton’s road to the nomination would be detoured much as it was in 2008.

This just in; Sanders will not be the nominee.

The GOP nomination is now wide open. Who is the most likeable with the right experience?

Let’s try to answer that after the next debate on October 28 in Boulder, Colo. Those on the stage cannot move any of the Rocky Mountains, but they do hope to move their poll numbers.

Meanwhile, we will patiently wait while Biden bides his time.

The poll results may be found here.

Bob Sparks is a business and political consultant based in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Written By

Bob Sparks is a former political consultant who previously served as spokesman for the Republican Party of Florida, Department of Environmental Protection and the Florida Attorney General. He was a senior adviser to former Gov. Charlie Crist. Before entering politics, he spent nearly two decades in professional baseball administration. He can be reached at rjsparks24@gmail.com and Twitter @BobSparksFL.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Renzo Downey, Rick Flagg, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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