Following a series of strong debate performances and sold-out rallies in early primary states, Republican Presidential candidate Dennis Hastert has extended his lead in the 2016 GOP primary according to several newly released polls.
Three surveys, which canvassed likely voters in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina, show the former Speaker of the House with a lead of 15 to 25 percentage points in each state. Hastert’s success has been fueled by a strong backing among younger voters, who seem to be drawn to the Illinois native’s hands-on campaign style.
“Dennis has given a series of touching speeches to intimate crowds at various high schools across the Midwest,” Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Hastert’s minister and a personal friend, said in an interview. “He’s really doing a phenomenal job. This race is his to lose.”
Reporters from across the country have been similarly impressed with Hastert’s campaign thus far.
“I’ve seen with my own eyes the way that the Speaker is able to win over a crowd,” Brian Williams of NBC said on Tuesday. “He’s a clean, relatable candidate. He’s going to be a tough man to bring down come primary season.”
“Someone I’ve talked to who attended a Hastert rally – we’ll call her Jackie – remembers every detail of the event and said she loved it. I’ve totally checked with several other sources to confirm that Jackie did, in fact, attend the speech,” wrote Sabrina Erdely in Rolling Stone.
Hastert’s fundraising has also seen a boost in recent weeks. Mostly receiving contributions in small, incremental amounts, the campaign says that it has already raised $1.7 million of the $3.5 million it hopes to reach by the end of the year.
Hastert has vowed to continue his campaign only if a majority of the Tea Party – a majority demographic within the GOP – supports his candidacy. So far, that outcome is all but certain.
An average of the three polls shows Hastert with 47% support – well ahead of fellow Republican candidates Sen. Larry Craig (26%) and Gov. Mark Sanford (18%).
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, Sen. John Edwards (28%) continues to lead the way, followed closely by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (25%) and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (21%).