WASHINGTON - Hillary Clinton is not only the strong front-runner for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, but she's well ahead of every potential Republican rival, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.
The former secretary of state rolled up support from majorities of voters when pitted against eight different Republicans. Though Clinton isn't saying whether she will seek the White House, her supporters have been promoting her candidacy.
The race for the Republican nomination is a free-for-all, with five possible contenders in a virtual tie. New Jersey Gov. Christie, who was virtually deadlocked with Clinton as recently as December, has regained some political strength after stumbling early this year but remains far behind the Democrat.
"Hillary Clinton is jogging around the track by herself as far as the Democratic field is concerned. Republicans are all in the starting blocks," said Lee Miringoff, the director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, which conducted the poll last week.
Clinton was the only Democrat in the poll. Among Republicans, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida - who last won their governorships in 2002 - each were named as the top choice of 13 percent of Republicans or Republican leaners. Right behind at 12 percent each were Christie, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.
A host of others, generally well regarded in Republican circles but barely known outside their home states, are far behind.
In single digits were:
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, 7 percent.
Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, 5 percent.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, 4 percent each.
Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, 3 percent each.
Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, less than 1 percent.
No one comes close to Clinton. Ryan does best, getting 43 percent against her 51 percent. Voters may see Ryan as "having a more serious policy focus," Miringoff said.
Ryan was instrumental earlier this year in crafting a two-year budget deal with Democrats. Among those who give him strong support are moderate voters.
The Republican once thought most capable of winning in 2016 was Christie. He was reelected in November with substantial support among constituencies that traditionally vote Democratic, notably women and Hispanics.
He stumbled, however, thanks to reports that officials close to him were instrumental in closing some of the lanes that link Fort Lee, N.J., to the George Washington Bridge in order to retaliate against a local Democratic mayor who wouldn't help Christie.
This month he would lose to Clinton by 53 percent to 42 percent, but that's a notable improvement from the 21 percentage point gap between them two months ago.