Washington (CNN) - In a potential preview of the next presidential election, a new national poll suggests Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie would be neck and neck if the 2016 contest were held today.
But a CNN/ORC International survey released Thursday also indicates Clinton leading eight other possible Republican White House hopefuls in hypothetical general election matchups.
According to the poll, 48% of registered voters say they would support support Christie, the Republican governor of New Jersey, if he were the GOP nominee, with 46% saying they would back Clinton, the former secretary of state, U.S. senator, and first lady, if she captured the Democratic nomination. Christie's 2-point margin is within the survey's sampling error. The CNN poll is the third non-partisan, live operator national survey conducted this month to indicate a possible matchup between Clinton and Christie basically all tied up.
If she decides to run, Clinton would instantly become the overwhelming frontrunner for the Democratic nomination. And Christie, fresh off his landslide re-election last month as New Jersey governor, is on top of the pack in recent polls of the race for the Republican nomination.
So what's the secret of Christie's strength against Clinton?
"He performs particularly well among independents, winning nearly six in 10 in that key group," CNN Polling Director Keating Holland siad. "He also wins a majority of suburbanites and older voters, something that no other GOP hopeful [that was] tested was able to do against Clinton."
"Christie doesn't win in the Northeast, although he does hold Clinton to a bare majority there, but he has a solid edge in the Midwest while playing Clinton to a draw in the South and West," Holland said.
Not surprisingly, the survey indicates a gender gap: Christie has a 14-point lead among men but loses women to Clinton by 10 points.
Clinton leads in other 2016 showdowns
The statistical tie between the Garden State governor and the former secretary of state is pretty remarkable compared to how Christie's potential GOP rivals do against Clinton in the CNN poll at this early stage of the game.
Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the House Budget Committee chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee, loses to Clinton by eight percentage points. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky trails by 13 points. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a 2008 GOP presidential candidate, is down by 15 points.
And it doesn't get any better for the GOP from there.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran for the nomination in the last election, is down 17 points to Clinton; freshman Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas trails by 18 points; Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rick Santorum, a 2012 GOP presidential candidate and former senator from Pennsylvania, are 19 points behind; and former two-term Florida Gov. Jeb Bush faces a 21-point gap between himself and Clinton
One thing to remember: Surveys taken this early in a presidential cycle are often heavily influenced by name recognition.
"Keep in mind that polls taken so many years before an election have little or no predictive value," Holland said.
The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International from December 16-19, with 950 registered voters nationwide questioned by telephone. The survey's overall sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Really? Christie is the best we Republicans can offer?
Really? 950 people out of 315,091,138 (Census 2013) 3 years out. Does not mean squat! What a lame survey. I hear Richard Dawson rolling in his grave..."and the survey says?"
First, this is fun, but meaningless because there are so many things that could go right or wrong before 2016 even starts. Second, neither one is someone that is at all likely to stop our national slide into debtors prison.
CNN uses the same pollsters who SWORE that Mitt the twit would win in 2012. He lost by a landslide.
Two Liberals, who cares.
The only reason this happens is the irresponsible US press pretends the far right Christy is moderate, while the centrist Clinton is some flaming liberal. It's a preposterous falsehood from the world of Rush Limbaugh lunacy.
Seriously? Not even 2014 yet. No one will remember this poll 3 weeks from now! How about some actual "News". Do you remember what that is?
Can't wait for the GOP race, I hope it’s as entertaining as the last one. U cannot buy comic relief like that. The Baggers will have Christie for breakfast. His diction is too good!!
He'll never get the nomination.
Financially speaking, the GOP finds it financially beneficial, as a whole. to have democrat in the White House. So is the GOP really putting its best foot forward here?
At this point if the majority of Americans are STILL going to (stupidly) vote for a Republican I say let's give them full control of the White House, House, and Senate. Then, after they've decimated the US economy and started 3 new wars we'll have Democrats for the next 20 years and actually get something done.
Why is God doing this to US?
as a centrist, I'd vote for Christie
The fix is in Ladies, and Gentleman. Your choice is Coke vs Pepsi, the whole Stage is being set to preserve the Status Quo.
Hilary has my vote. I'm tired of racist rethugicans
The Tea party will never ever let Christie be nominated, winning is not their goal.
Clinton or Christie? Really? This is the best we can do? Well like they say, garbage in, barrage out.
Run Forest Run, stupid is as stupid does?
May be they can predict the next power ball winner.
Or, better yet the outcome of the next Russian or Cuban election.
How much did you pay fo get them to through this one out for you?
Governor Christy and Former Sec State Clinton, same politics just different sides of the coin.
Who can we find that will be a stand out candidate?
Who can represent. "WE THE PEOPLE "?
Come on America, this isn't a banana republic is it?
If those are the two top candidates for President, shouldn't we all start weeping for our nation?
lets just sit back and see who our candidates will be next election ... tose of you whom thiink this prediction is wrong will see it is on target ... these two will be the front runners.... and justifiable so
Shame Christie will never escape the Stupid Fest that is the GOP primary.
Do we really want CNN deciding who our candidates will be? Not Christie, I will tell you that right now. We have several really good, true conservative men and women who would do far better. The base will not vote for Christie, ever. I hope Hillary runs because she has so much baggage, but I am sure CNN would say, "what difference does it make!"
So once again, the established political system is already indirectly telling people who to vote for. These are the two candidates each party wants so it can maintain its grip on power. Go ahead American people....continue to buy into the hype you have consumed so many times before, you will get the same result....or worse.