Five Republicans neck and neck in 2016 race: poll

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Washington (AFP) - Five White House hopefuls are tied atop the Republican nomination race, a national poll released Thursday showed, making it anyone's guess who will battle the Democratic nominee in 2016.

The leading quintet, who include former Florida governor Jeb Bush -- who has yet to declare his candidacy -- and Senator Marco Rubio, were clustered at 10 percent support each, with none beating the early frontrunner Hillary Clinton in head-to-head matchups.

Also bunched at the top, according to Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, are three arch-conservatives: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker; former Arkansas governor and preacher Mike Huckabee; and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson.

Libertarian-leaning Senator Rand Paul trailed with seven percent, while Senator Ted Cruz claimed six percent and business magnate Donald Trump five percent.

The 2016 Republican field is the most crowded in decades.

Conservative ex-senator Rick Santorum launched his campaign Wednesday, while George Pataki, the moderate governor of New York during the 9/11 attacks of 2001, jumped in on Thursday.

In a sign many Americans have yet to begin processing the presidential race, 20 percent of Republican respondents said they did not yet have a favored candidate.

Among the Republicans, "no one has any real traction," Quinnipiac assistant director Tim Malloy told AFP.

- Clinton 'invincible' for now -

"When the top five are barely cracking double digits it tells you that no one is jumping out in front of the pack. And so far Hillary Clinton, if there were an election today, would not be challenged."

A poll average compiled by RealClearPolitics shows Bush leading the Republican pack with 14.8 percent, followed by Walker at 13.0 and Rubio at 12.2.

With the GOP nomination contest wide open, the Democratic side was all about the former secretary of state and onetime first lady, who also served in the US Senate from 2001 to 2009.

Clinton, aiming to become the nation's first female commander-in-chief, earned 57 percent support -- a three-point drop compared to an April 24 Quinnipiac poll but still well ahead of socialist-leaning US Senator Bernie Sanders, with 15 percent.

Vice President Joe Biden, who has flirted with a run but has yet to take many of the steps seen as prerequisites to a campaign launch, was third at nine percent.

Martin O'Malley, a recent two-term Maryland governor who is expected to launch his presidential bid Saturday, barely registered with one percent support.

The RealClearPolitics average put Clinton even further out front, with 63.6 percent support.

In Quinnipiac's hypothetical matchups, only Paul and Rubio posed threats to Clinton. She came out ahead 46-42 percent against Paul and 45-41 versus Rubio.

Clinton cruised against the other Republicans, including a 10-point advantage over Bush, the son and brother of two presidents.

Voters by 53 to 39 percent said Clinton is not honest or trustworthy, but they responded 60-37 that she has strong leadership qualities.

"The leadership thing in the end says that she seems pretty much invincible in her party and against the Republican field invincible -- at least at the moment," Malloy said.

The May 19-26 poll surveyed 1,711 registered voters and has a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

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