Kudlow's Corner

For 2016, Hillary had the worst night

We all know the Republican midterm landslide was largely a repudiation of President Obama's policies and his handling of the job of chief executive. And of course, we don't know who will succeed him in 2016. But buried deep inside Tuesday's exit polls is a series of numbers on presidential contenders that will blow your mind. It's completely different from most anything you've seen in the newspapers, the Internet, or on TV.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks on behalf of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Anthony Gregory Brown during a campaign rally in College Park, Md., Oct. 30, 2014.
Paul J. Richards | AFP | Getty Images

Get this. Here's a stunning question and answer from Edison Research, which interviewed 18,000 voters around the country as they left the polls on November 4:

Do you think Hillary Clinton would make a good president?

Yes: 42 percent. No: 52 percent.

Whether she's the front-runner or not, a majority of midterm-election voters don't want her running the country.

Does that leave the door open for other Democrats? Sure looks like it.

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Does that leave the door open for a Republican? Hang on to your seats:

Do you think Jeb Bush would make a good president?

Yes: 29 percent. No: 59 percent.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie speaks with former President Bill Clinton during the Clinton Global Initiative CGI America meeting in Chicago, June 14, 2013.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Do you think Chris Christie would make a good president?

Yes: 24 percent. No: 64 percent.

Amazing. New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is also the chair of the Republican Governors Association, has been widely praised for quarterbacking the GOP's tremendous election performance in the states. The GOP counted 31 Republican gubernatorial wins, even in deep-blue Massachusetts, Illinois, and Maryland. But voters still said no to Christie.

But there's more. Hang on to your seatbelts:

Do you think Rand Paul would make a good president?

Yes: 26 percent. No: 60 percent.

Do you think Rick Perry would make a good president?

Yes: 24 percent. No: 62 percent.

High-profile senator Rand Paul, who has had successful early years in the Senate, has a strong following among libertarian-like millennials, and has a crafty way of jumping on key issues, didn't do so well either. And Texas governor Rick Perry, who many experts suggest has recovered from his 2012 gaffes, also got a big thumbs-down.

But here's the kicker — my absolute favorite:

In the 2016 presidential election, for whom would you be more likely to vote?

Hillary Clinton (Dem): 24 percent. The Republican candidate: 40 percent.

That's right. The yet-to-be-named Republican beats Hillary.

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I guess she shouldn't have said businesses don't create jobs. Or maybe voters remember her Russian reset with Putin, her calling Bashar Assad a "reformer" we can do business with, or her "who cares" exclamation about how the U.S. base in Benghazi was destroyed.

Or maybe the old Bill Clinton magic is not rubbing off anymore. But the fact is, the exit polls say ol' Hillary would lose to a Republican no-name. And at the margin, Tuesday's election has probably re-scrambled the Republican deck.

I'm sure not going to pick a winner here. But given the polling weakness of the other established candidates, and the virtual collapse of Hillary, you have to wonder ...

What about newly re-elected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker? For quite a while he looked like he might lose, but he wound up with a bigger positive margin than anyone thought possible. He won his battle against the public unions. He cut taxes while strictly limiting spending. Is Governor Walker, who may possess the strongest political backbone in the country, now a Republican front-runner?

Or can the same be said of Ohio Governor John Kasich? He won re-election in a landslide, even after accepting federal Medicaid aid (unpopular in conservative circles). But he also found some spare budget cash to help Ohio's poor and stayed on the supply side with tax cuts.

Or what about Michigan governor Rick Snyder? He put the whole city of Detroit into bankruptcy to solve its collapsing financial structure and get it on the road to recovery. He also took on government unions and found a way to reduce tax burdens. And he made Michigan — the UAW's socialist paradise — into a right-to-work state.

Or maybe Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal has jumped to the front. He campaigned for fellow Republicans around the country while begging the GOP to come up with a true national message of economic growth, supply-side tax cuts, market-oriented health care, and education-choice reform.

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I'm not going to go through the whole list. There are other Republican governors and senators, and at least one key policymaker in the GOP dominated House, who could be that yet-to-be-named Republican in 2016.

What's important now is that the midterm exit polls turned conventional wisdom on its head. It's not just those awful numbers for the high-visibility Republican hopefuls. But Hillary loses to an unnamed name.

To channel the great William F. Buckley Jr., get me a phone book and I'll start picking her opponents.

Commentary by Larry Kudlow, a senior contributor at CNBC and economics editor of the National Review. Follow him on Twitter @Larry_Kudlow.

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