Meet the Press: Rand Paul is Republican Presidential Frontrunner


CHUCK TODD: For most of us, summer travel takes us to theme parks or beaches. For presidential wannabes, it's anywhere they can find potential supporters. And this week was particularly buys. Chris Christie in Iowa, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren wooing progressives in Detroit. And of course Hillary Clinton finishing her book tour.

New NBC News Marist poll numbers from Iowa and New Hampshire bring good and bad news for hopefuls on both sides. Here are three key takeaways: Number one, Democrats are ready for Hillary. In head-to-head match-ups, Clinton handily leads Joe Biden in both states by 50 or more points.

And take a look at these favorable ratings just among Democrats. 89% in Iowa and a whopping 94% in New Hampshire. But as excited as Democrats are, it's not going to be a cakewalk for her in these two swing states in a general. In head-to-head match-ups with six potential Republicans, Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker and Chris Christie, the race tightened substantially. While she's tied or leads all of them, she didn't do any better than 51% against anybody.

The Republican that runs best against her: Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. And that's our second key takeaway. The first term Kentucky Senator right now is the closest thing Republicans have to a 2016 frontrunner. What gives Paul that label? He has the highest favorable ratings of any potential candidate in the two states. He leads the polls in the early horserace, not including the undecided vote, and he runs best against Hillary Clinton.

But it's not just good poll numbers, he's been very strategy in the past six months. Paul hired Rick Santorum's former campaign manager. He's teamed with Democrat Cory Booker on some legislation. And he backs a less active foreign policy that happens to be more popular with the public. This also could mean that Paul will be an early target of uneasy establishment Republicans all of next year.

And that brings us to our third takeaway. Chris Christie has a lot of work to do. The New Jersey governor has the highest negative ratings of any of his Republican rivals. And that's among Republicans in both states. It's why he's pledging to come back to the state a lot.

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