ICYMI: Quinnipiac poll of 2016: Jeb Bush 14%, Chris Christie 11% and Ben Carson 9%

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Republican voters nationwide look towards 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney to get back in the game for 2016, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday.

Voters give the former Massachusetts governor the top rank at 19 percent in an early glimpse of the 2016 presidential race. Romney continues to insist he will not seek the White House for a third time.

With Romney out of the race, however, former Gov. Jeb Bush leads with 14 percent, followed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at 11 percent. Neurosurgeon Ben Carson, a conservative Tea Party favorite, gets 9 percent, while U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky gets 8 percent. Another 19 percent remain undecided.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the person to beat in the Democratic field, getting 57 percent of voters, followed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts at 13 percent; Vice President Joe Biden takes 9 percent; 14 percent are undecided.

If Clinton does not run, polling shows Biden gets 34 percent, followed by Warren, who receives 25 percent.

In hypothetical matchups, Clinton falls behind Romney by 1 point, and is five points or less ahead of Christie (43 to 42 percent), Wisconsin’s Rep. Paul Ryan (46 to 42 percent), former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (46 to 41 percent) and Paul (46 to 41 percent). Clinton also bests Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by 11 points (48 to 37 percent).

Polling this early in the race, is not much of a predictor, but it does give some insight about what is going on right now.

One key takeaway from the early polling numbers is that both the mainstream and right-wing media put candidates such as Paul and Cruz on the fringe, often in the single digits. There is little reason (at this stage) to consider either a front-runner or even an “A-list” contender.

Right now, the top three on the GOP bench are Romney (unlikely to run), Bush and Christie. Here, it is mostly due to name recognition, and these numbers downplay claims that “establishment” Republicans are in disfavor. Keep in mind that many “establishment” Republicans just won Senate races.

Ben Carson may get 9 percent, but he seems to be moving along the lines of a Herman Cain.

Another interesting trend is that each of the match-ups give Clinton no more than 46 percent, except in a race against Cruz. Any Democrat with his or her salt should get at least 47 to 48 percent of the vote, but not Clinton, who enjoys universal name recognition. This proves that impressions of Clinton run deep with voters, and are probably not going to change.

Clinton’s favorability stands at 50 percent, with 45 percent taking an unfavorable view of her; only 3 percent did not have enough information to make a decision. Those numbers once again prove her widespread name recognition.

As for Republicans, Bush is barely above water with a 33 positive to 32 percent negative, and Cruz languishes in the bottom with 29 percent negative and only 21 percent positive. All the rest are in positive territory.

As Clinton is the recognizable brand, most of the GOP candidates are relatively unknown. They need to get the word out to the electorate, particularly with the “haven’t heard enough” crowd, who range from 27 percent for Christie to 49 percent for Cruz.

Polling shows the Tea Party is beginning to fall out of favor with voters, receiving a negative 27 to 45 percent favorable. Democrats get a negative 35 to 54 percent favorable, and Republicans have a negative 38 to 49 percent positive score.

There is one other scenario, where at least one of the top contenders decides not to run. In that case, add another 10 percent of the non-candidate’s support to whomever will ultimately run. For example, a Christie voter would lean more to Bush than Cruz or another of the “fringe” (for now) candidates.

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.