Public opinion polls of the presidential race even at this very early stage of the campaign do have value, writes veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove in The Wall Street Journal.
The polls not only shed light on "how acceptable specific candidates are," but they also show that, unless presented with a roster of names to pick from, 45 percent of voters are undecided about which Republican they want nominated.
So far, the early 2016 polls show that potential candidates can be categorized into four groups, writes Rove.
Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee fall into the category of "well-known Republicans with positive ratings." Fifty-nine percent want Romney to run, 50 percent want Bush to run, and 40 percent would like to see Huckabee in the race.
"Their challenge is to translate the relatively positive feelings about them into concrete support," writes Rove.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, and Dr. Ben Carson fall into the category of candidates who "aren't as well-known but have positive images," writes Rove. Voters don't know enough about them to say they should run. These candidates need to "work to increase awareness of their backgrounds, records and views," he advises.
Candidates who need to "rehabilitate their images" if they hope to run are former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. Their numbers show that more people don't want them to run than do want to see them in the race.
Fifty-nine percent want Palin to stay out, 44 percent don't want Christie to run, and 34 percent do not want Paul to seek the presidency.
The last group that Rove identifies are candidates whom voters "don't know enough to say." Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum fall into this category. "These candidates must raise enough money to stay alive until the early contests and then beat expectations, or they will fade," writes Rove.
Overall, candidates who offer a "compelling vision and agenda for where they want to take the country" will likely do better than those who expend their energies bashing President Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. Walker and Rubio are making strides by this criteria, writes Rove.
In the summer, Federal Election Commission reports will show which candidates are drawing strong financial support.
By autumn, the polls should begin to tell us the real state of play in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
Rove looks for a "great race" with the GOP primaries and caucuses bound to capture attention and generate high turnout, while on the Democratic side there appears to be no contest at all.
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