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Unlike Hillary Clinton, the entire GOP field is either obscure or unpopular

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Nate Silver and his team at FiveThirtyEight put together this great graphic summarizing the popularity of various key political players and how well-known they are to the general public.

But I think his spin on it is a little odd. Silver cites it as evidence that 2016 is a toss-up and characterizes it as showing that "nobody likes anybody."

But to me, this looks to me like a picture explaining that Hillary Clinton is dramatically more popular than her main rivals for the presidency:


It is certainly true that Clinton's just-barely-over-water approval ratings aren't overwhelming. But elections are zero-sum. The Clinton-Bush gap and the Clinton-Cruz gaps are both enormous. It is true that Clinton's advantages over Scott Walker and Marco Rubio are not that large, but she is dramatically better-known than either of those guys.

So what you make of this chart largely comes down to whether you think it's plausible that these obscure-but-slightly-less-popular-than-Clinton Republicans can maintain their level of popularity while becoming better-known.

I'm going to say no.

It's very likely that outside of their home state, the Rubios and Walkers of the world are better-known to people with conservative leanings than people with liberal leanings. They've already introduced themselves, in other words, to a self-selected audience that is predisposed to view them favorably. As more people hear of them and learn that they have largely mainstream conservative views similar to those of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie, they are likely to end up with approval ratings that are similar to Bush's and Christie's.

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