Clinton top pick among Iowans in 2016 presidential race

But poll respondents disapprove of Bergdahl swap

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If the 2016 election were being held today, Hillary Clinton would defeat all Republican comers, but a new Quinnipiac University poll finds Chris Christie “inching” his way back into the race.

The June 12-16 poll of 1,277 registered Iowa voters also found they disapprove of the Obama Administration’s decision to release five Taliban prisoners in exchange for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by a 55 to 34 percent margin.

Clinton, whose favorability is 52 percent — the same as in July 2013 — appears able to defeat any of the Republicans being mentioned as 2016 presidential candidates. In head-to-head match-ups, Quinnipiac found Iowans favored the former Secretary of State over the GOP candidates by anywhere from 6 to 13 percentage points.

She leads Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul 46 to 40 percent and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin 47 to 41 percent. She enjoys a 46 to 39 percent lead on former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and tops former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush 49 to 36 percent.

Quinnipiac found that things may be turning around for Christie. The New Jersey Republican’s poll number started to move in a favorable direction after dropping when it was revealed his administration closed lanes on a key commuter link as political payback for a mayor’s lack of support for his re-election.

“Things are getting a bit better in Iowa for New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll. “But the Republican contender, who was ahead of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Iowa before ‘Bridgegate’ took him down several pegs, still has a ways to go.”

In previous polls, Quinnipiac found Iowans split 41 to 41 on a Christie-Clinton match-up in July 2013 and had Christie leading 45 to 40 percent in December. In March of this year, Clinton jumped to a 48 to 35 percent lead. Christie has closed the gap to 44 to 36 percent.

President Barack Obama’s numbers, however, continue to slide. By a 55 to 45 percent margin, Iowans disapprove of the job he is doing. That negative split has grown from 45 to 50 percent in July 2013, according to Quinnipiac.

“Iowans are consistent in their disapproval of Obama’s job performance,” Brown said. “In four polls over the past 11 months, his job approval has been between 38 percent and 41 percent, slightly below the numbers he is getting nationally.

“The key to his problem is he is doing poorly among independent voters, a larger part of the electorate in Iowa than in most states,” he said.

The drop may have something to do with the Bergdahl prisoner exchange. Only Democrats approve — 60 to 26 percent — of that swapping five Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl. Republicans disapproved 83 to 14 percent.

“There is sharp partisan division about the wisdom of the prisoner swap,” Brown said, “but there is smaller partisan split on the question of whether Sgt. Bergdahl should be prosecuted if it is proven that he deserted his post.”

If that’s the case, by a 74 to 13 percent margin, Iowans believe that if it’s determined Bergdahl deserted his post, he should be charged with a military crime.

Iowans continue to give their U.S. senators good marks. Voters approve 62 to 30 percent of the job Republican Chuck Grassley is doing and give retiring Democrat Tom Harkin a 56 to 33 percent approval.

The poll has a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percent.

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