2016 GOP presidential field is the most “unusual” in 40 years

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate” scandal has effectively changed the 2016 GOP presidential race, leaving the Republican field without a clear frontrunner.

In past years, surveys found that in the first quarter of a preceding midterm year, the leading republican usually polls somewhere  the low 20s — an average of 23 percent—according to FiveThirtyEight senior political writer Harry Enten.

Not so this year.

In 2014, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee polls at about 14.8 percent, the lowest ranked leader on record. Christie is at 13 percent, with Jeb Bush at 12.2 percent, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul at 11.1 and Rep. Paul Ryan at 10.9.

The difference between Huckabee and fourth place Ryan is only four points.

In comparison, leading Republicans since 1976 rarely dipped below the thirties in the midterm election cycle — George H.W. Bush was at 65 percent in 1992 and Ronald Reagan was at 45 percent at the same period in 1980.

The numbers point to a GOP that is more divided than ever before, as Democrats become more united. Hillary Clinton is polling at 67 percent the strongest of any Democratic contender in the modern era (for either side) including incumbents Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Polls more than two years prior to the presidential election, Enten writes, doesn’t tell all that much about the how the 2016 vote will go down.

But it does say something about how the Democratic and Republican fields are shaping up, simply by how they are looking “very unusual” at this point. Republicans seem remarkably disarrayed, while Democrats are unusually clear.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.