Did you see the Quinnipiac poll of the 2016 presidential race that was released earlier this week? Mitt Romney won among Republicans, with Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Dr. Ben Carson also running strong -- though that's not what interests me most.
Republican voters nationwide want 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney back in the game, giving him the top position at 19 percent in an early look at the 2016 presidential race in a Quinnipiac University national poll released today. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is next with 11 percent, followed by New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie and Dr. Ben Carson at 8 percent each. No other Republican tops 6 percent, with 16 percent undecided.I'm struck by which candidates do best against Hillary Clinton:
With Romney out of the race, Jeb Bush leads with 14 percent, followed by Christie at 11 percent, Carson at 9 percent and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 8 percent, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. Another 19 percent are undecided.
Romney runs best against Clinton in a general election, taking 45 percent to her 44 percent. In other matchups:Romney wins. Christie nearly wins. Hillary beats the others fairly comfortably.
Clinton gets 43 percent to Christie's 42 percent;
Clinton tops Paul 46 - 41 percent;
She beats former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 46 - 41 percent;
Clinton tops Jeb Bush 46 - 41 percent;
She gets 46 percent to 42 percent for U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin;
Clinton tops U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas 48 - 37 percent.
I know it's just one poll, and I can't say that the differences are all that significant when you take margin of error into account. Still, why these two? Why Romney and Christie?
I think it's because they're the ones who attack their opponents in the most engagingly trollish way these days. Christie has been very visible lately, and he really seems to be enjoying himself as he goes after people again. That's the key: the joy. Romney has it too. He's become a full-time troll since the 2012 campaign, and it suits him. Remember how people said in 2012 that he seemed uncomfortable in his own skin? When he's trolling President Obama, he seems really, really comfortable. This is who he is. He's a guy with a serious mean streak -- the guy who, as a kid, forcibly gave that fellow student a haircut. But there's a contagious glee in his angry attacks -- as, obviously, there is in Christie's. They're clearly having a lot of fun. Remember, this is what worked for Ronald Reagan -- he never stopped trash-talking Democrats and liberals, but everybody thought he was "genial" and "sunny." Romney, surprisingly, has a little bit of Reagan in him. Christie has this too, though we knew that.
If Romney and Christie really are the two guys doing best against Hillary, that rebuts both the right-wing narrative of 2016 and the mainstream-pundit narrative. Right-wingers think they'll win with a True Conservative -- but Christie and Romney are obviously not what they have in mind. And the mainstream idea is that what voters really want in 2016 is an agenda. Here's The New Republic's Brian Beutler, writing about why (in his view) it's good that the GOP took the Senate:
Obama's agenda is mostly tapped out. The [Democratic] party's broader agenda is pretty stale. Hillary Clinton doesn't have an agenda.But the Republicans who are the most successful right now at inspiring voters aren't doing it with an agenda -- they're doing it with happy-warrior trash talk.
It's plausible that Democrats can hold on to the presidency even without addressing any of these problems -- that they can win by virtue of not being Republicans. But that's not a recipe for inspiring anyone....
But what about Ted Cruz? He's back in the pack, according to Quinnipiac -- he's not doing particularly well in the primary field and he's not posing a serious challenge to Hillary at all. Isn't he a trash-talker? Yes -- but I don't think he conveys the same sense of sheer, contagious enjoyment as Christie and post-2012 Romney. He comes off as smug and haughty in a way they don't.
Maybe all this is a pendulum swing away from Obama's low-key cool -- who knows? But I think happy Republican troll can win in 2016. I seriously think Christie or Romney would beat Hillary if either one could get the nomination.