Poll Shows Clinton/Christie Support Shift After Bridge Talk - KYTX CBS 19 Tyler Longview News Weather Sports

Poll Shows Clinton/Christie Support Shift After Bridge Accusations

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Washington (CNN) - What a difference two months makes.  In late November and early December, in the wake of Chris Christie's landslide re-election victory, the Republican governor from New Jersey was riding high in the polls.

Christie topped the other potential GOP 2016 White House hopefuls in surveys of Republicans' choice for their next presidential nominee, and he was knotted up with Hillary Clinton in hypothetical general election showdowns.

Now, after month of intense media scrutiny over a couple of controversies in his state, Christie's numbers have faded, according to a new CNN/ORC International survey.

In a possible 2016 matchup with Clinton, the poll indicates Christie trails the former secretary of state by 16 percentage points, with Clinton at 55% and the Governor at 39% among registered voters nationwide. That's a dramatic switch from December, when Christie held a 48%-46% edge over Clinton.

"Christie has also lost ground among independents, who were the key to his strong showing late last year," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.  "Christie got 59% support among Independents in December.  Now that has dropped to 39%."

Race for GOP nomination

The survey released Monday indicates that the hunt for the GOP nomination is back to where it was before Christie's rise in the polls late last year: a pack of potential White House contenders with no obvious frontrunner.

But according to the poll, there is a new name on top of the list in hunt for the GOP nomination: Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential candidate.

Fourteen percent of Republicans and independents who lean toward the GOP say they would likely support Huckabee for their party's nomination if he runs.

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky is next at 13% followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Christie tied at 10%.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida are tied at 9%.

One point behind are Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and longtime Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate, stands at 4%.

That's a change from November, when Christie was 11 points ahead of the rest of the field. Huckabee was not tested in the November survey.

Christie is facing allegations that some of his aides closed access lanes to the George Washington Bridge in Fort Lee last September to punish that town's mayor for not endorsing his re-election.

Separately, Hoboken's Democratic mayor alleges that Superstorm Sandy recovery aid for her hard-hit city was dependent on support for a development project backed by the governor – an assertion denied by top Christie officials.

"Because Huckabee was not included in the November poll, any drop in Christie's support among Republicans may be partly due to Huckabee as well as recent news stories. So it's impossible to calculate exactly how much support Christie lost as a result of the bridge controversy.  But it's a pretty safe bet that the drop in Christie's support against Clinton is due to the recent news stories about the bridge," added Holland.

For all his problems, Christie matches up better against Clinton in the CNN poll than any other possible GOP contender tested. Clinton has a 20-point, 57%-37%, lead over Bush, an 18-point, 57%-39%, advantage over Paul, a 17-point, 56%-39%, lead over Huckabee, and a 55%-40% advantage over Ryan.

Clinton in strong polling position

Clinton says she'll decide whether to make a second run for the White House by the end of the year. If she does launch a candidacy, just about every poll indicates she would start her campaign as the overwhelming front runner to win the Democratic nomination.

According to the CNN poll, seven of 10 Democrats and independents who lean toward the party say they'd be likely to support Clinton as their nominee, with 15% likely to support a more conservative Democrats and one in 10 more likely to back a more liberal candidate.

"The CNN poll did not name specific Democrats who might run against Clinton, in part to test whether Clinton's strong position is due to dislike or unfamiliarity with the standard roster of potential Democratic candidates," says Holland. "The fact that Clinton tests so well against generic rivals is is a strong indication that Democrats are not shopping around, hoping that another candidate will throw his or her hat into the ring."

While Christie deals with the bridge and Sandy funding controversies, Clinton continues to deal with the September 2012 killing of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans in an attack in Benghazi, Libya. The attacks came during her watch as secretary of state, and some Republicans have Clinton heavily over the attack and its aftermath.

But according to the poll, 62% approve of the job she did at the State Department, down 4 points from December 2012, a month before Clinton stepped down as American's top diplomat.

Nine in 10 Democrats and just over six in 10 independents said they approve of the job she did as secretary of state. That approval drops to 29% among Republicans.

The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International January 31-February 2, with 1,010 adults nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

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