Hillary Clinton is a heavy early favorite among Florida voters in a hypothetical 2016 presidential matchup against either of the state's two best-known Republicans — former Gov. Jeb Bush or U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a poll released Thursday shows.
Clinton has a double-digit lead over both of the Florida Republicans in a random telephone survey of 1,000 of the state's registered voters by Quinnipiac (Conn.) University Polling Institute taken March 13-18.
The new Quinnipiac survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, shows Clinton would best Bush 51 percent to 40 percent and top Rubio by 52 percent to 41 percent if an election were held now. Independent voters, however, were virtually divided in a Bush-Clinton matchup while the former secretary of state, New York senator and first lady ran ahead of Rubio in a comparable pairing with a 47-38 advantage.
"If she decides to make the race, she begins with a sizable lead in a state that Republicans cannot win the White House without," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the polling institute. "Florida voters have a very positive view of Mrs. Clinton and it's not just Democrats who feel that way."
Clinton was regarded favorably by 62 percent of the respondents, including 26 percent of Republicans and 57 percent of independents.
Two thirds of women surveyed held a favorable view of Clinton.
Clinton was easily the best known of the trio with 95 percent having an opinion on her, compared to 85 percent for Bush and 75 percent for Rubio.
None of the three have announced their intentions for 2016 although Bush and Rubio have been taking the temperature of GOP voters with a variety of political appearances across the country in recent weeks. Clinton, who stepped down as secretary of state this year, lost the 2008 Democratic nomination to Barack Obama in a lengthy and bruising Democratic primary contest.
President Obama's job performance, the poll showed, was regarded favorably by 50 percent compared to 45 percent who rated it unfavorably. Obama carried Florida, the nation's largest swing state, in both the 2008 and 2012 general elections.