Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry led other possible Republican opponents among a small sample of self-described 2016 Minnesota GOP caucus voters. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming favorite among possible Democratic candidates, including Vice President Joe Biden, according to a Suffolk University statewide Minnesota poll.

In the race for U.S. Senate, a survey of 800 likely general-election Minnesota voters shows incumbent U.S. Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat, leading four possible Republican opponents by 15 to 16 points.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton leads six possible Republican opponents by 12 to 18 points.

2016 presidential caucuses

Fifteen percent of self-described Minnesota Republican caucus-goers named Bush and Texas Gov. Rick Perry as their first choice for their party’s nomination for president, while Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie were tied at 9 percent; Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) had 8 percent; and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the first choice of 6 percent. The candidate’s relative strength lies within this survey’s +/-10.5 percent margin of error. Eight other Republicans were mentioned but received less than 5 percent each.

When first and second choices were combined, Bush received 24 percent, Perry 20 percent, and Cruz 16 percent. These results mirrored Bush’s 24 percent of first and second choices among Republican caucus-goers in a Suffolk University Iowa poll earlier this month.

David Paleologos, director of the Suffolk University Political Research Center in Boston, is qualifying this subset test with a higher error rate, yet he noted that the core Democratic and Republican voters have been triple screened. Each is qualified as a likely voter in the general election in November, a likely voter in the August 12 primary, and a self-described precinct caucus-goer for the presidential caucus in 2016.

“Although these are small subsets of voters, an interesting pattern is emerging,” said Paleologos. “Jeb Bush has quietly scored in the top three among combined first and second choices in Minnesota, Iowa and New Hampshire – states far away from Florida or Texas. No other Republican has been that consistent. And as other first-choice candidates drop out, a great number of their supporters will rotate to Bush, because he is the second choice of many in these states.”

Bush has indicated he will not make a decision on a 2016 run until the end of this year.

On the Democratic side, another well-known political name already is clearing the field for the 2016 presidential nomination. Among Democratic precinct caucus-goers, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton led Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) 63 percent to 15 percent, with five other Democrats receiving less than 5 percent, including Vice President Joe Biden. In early April, Clinton led Warren 63 percent to 12 percent in a Suffolk University poll of Democratic Iowa caucus-goers, with Biden getting 10 percent.

“Democrats are making polling history with two women leading for their party’s nomination in back-to-back public polls, even though there is a long way to go and neither has declared a candidacy,” said Paleologos.

Gubernatorial race

Dayton hovered in the low- to mid-40s but maintained double-digit leads over potential Republican opponents: teacher Rob Farnsworth, investment banker Scott Honour, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former State Rep. Marty Seifert, State Sen. Dave Thompson, and State Rep. Kurt Zellers. None of the potential GOP nominees scored above 32 percent, and just over a quarter of voters were undecided.

U.S. Senate race

Franken is polling in the mid-40s and leads four possible Republican challengers: State Rep. Jim Abeler, St. Louis County Commissioner Chris Dahlberg, financial executive Mike McFadden, and State Sen. Julianne Ortman. None of the possible GOP nominees received more than 29 percent of the vote. Between 7 percent and 8 percent of likely voters would opt for someone else or for the Minnesota Independence Party nominee, and another 19 percent to 20 percent were undecided for U.S. Senate. Minnesota has three officially recognized political parties, including the Democratic Farmer-Labor Party, the Republican Party and the Independence Party of Minnesota.

Strong numbers on Minnesota economy

Nearly 50 percent of likely voters said that the Minnesota economy has improved over the past two years, while 21 percent said it has gotten worse, and 25 percent said it has stayed the same.

“These numbers are dramatic and even stronger than the upbeat numbers from Iowa a few weeks ago,” said Paleologos.

The April 3-8 Iowa poll showed that nearly 43 percent of voters believed that the state’s economy had improved over the past two years.

Methodology

The statewide Suffolk University survey used a split sample of landline and cell phone numbers and a screen to filter out low voter intensity. The field of 800 likely voters was conducted Thursday, April 24, through Monday, April 28. The margin of error is +/-3.5 percent at a 95 percent level of confidence. The subset of 198 likely GOP primary voters is +/-6.96 percent. The subset of "first choice" presidential selections from 87 Republican and 100 Democratic precinct caucus-goers is +/-10.5 percent and +/-9.8 percent respectively.

Results are posted on the Suffolk University Political Research Center website. For more information, contact David Paleologos at 781-290-9310.