Clinton leads GOP field in Iowa, but Christie is inching back: poll

Dylan Stableford, Yahoo News
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gestures during the second day of the 5th annual Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" Policy Conference in Washington
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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie gestures during the second day of the 5th annual Faith & Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" Policy Conference in Washington, June 20, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

If the 2016 presidential election were held today, Hillary Clinton would have the edge on any of her possible Republican challengers in Iowa, a new Quinnipiac University poll finds. But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose star was dimmed considerably by the so-called Bridge-gate scandal, is inching back into the 2016 picture, the poll shows.

According to the results of the survey released on Monday, Christie trails the former secretary of state by 8 points (44 percent to 36 percent) in Iowa. In March, the same poll found Christie down 13 points in the theoretical 2016 matchup. In December, before the scandal broke, Christie led Clinton by 5 points (45 percent to 40 percent); in July 2013, Clinton and Christie were tied at 41 percent.

Meanwhile, Iowa voters give Clinton a 52 percent approval rating (41 percent disapproval), compared to a 34 percent approval rating (36 percent disapproval) for the New Jersey governor.

"Things are getting a bit better in Iowa" for Christie, Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a release accompanying the poll. "But the Republican contender, who was ahead of Clinton in Iowa before 'Bridgegate' took him down several pegs, still has a ways to go."

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan each trail Clinton by 6 points in the Hawkeye State, home to the much-watched the Iowa caucuses. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee trails by 7 points (46 percent to 39 percent) against her.

But Christie would fare better against Clinton in Iowa than several other possible Republican hopefuls, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who trails the former first lady by 13 points, the Quinnipiac poll found.

[Related: Paul on Clinton: 'We will make her answer for Benghazi']

For Republicans looking up at Clinton in polls, there has been some encouraging news. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released last week found Americans are equally divided about voting for Clinton. According to the results of the survey, 38 percent of registered American voters say they would vote for her if she decides to run, while 37 percent said they would "definitely" oppose her.

That poll also found Clinton's current book tour — which has included a series of high-profile interviews to promote her memoir, "Hard Choices" — has had a negative effect on her approval rating. Before the tour, Clinton's approval rating was 48 percent. According to recent poll released, it's now 44 percent, with 37 percent disapproving of her.

In an interview broadcast on Sunday, Paul gave a preview of what is likely to be the GOP's strategy against Clinton in 2016: Blame her for Benghazi.

"We will make her answer for Benghazi," Paul said on "Meet the Press." "She will have to explain how she can be commander in chief when she was not responsive to multiple requests for more security in the six months leading up [to the attack]."

Clinton, Paul pointed out, had approved millions in expenditures not related to security in the months before the assault.

"Meet the Press" host David Gregory asked Paul if Benghazi should disqualify Clinton as a candidate.

"I think so," Paul said. "[The] American people want a commander in chief that will send reinforcements, that will defend the country, and that will provide the adequate security. And I think in the moment of need — a long moment, a six-month moment — she wasn’t there."

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