WASHINGTON — The Republican Party might be in a far stronger position in the race for the White House if Donald Trump were not the nominee.
That's according to a new AP-GfK poll that looked at a few "hypotheticals" involving the 2016 major party candidates for president and vice president.
The results: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the Republican vice presidential nominee, trails Hillary Clinton in a hypothetical matchup by just 4 points among likely voters. Trump trails Clinton by 13 points in a head-to-head contest, and 14 points when third-party candidates are included.
What if it were Clinton's running mate Tim Kaine atop the Democratic ticket? The Virginia senator would lead Trump by 16 in a hypothetical matchup.
And a Kaine vs. Pence contest? That would be nearly tied.
The new poll found evidence that Trump's struggle stems from particularly weak support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Pence, who isn't as well-known on the national stage, is considered more attractive to many Republican loyalists who cannot stomach the prospect of a Trump candidacy.
"Pence is sane," said poll respondent William Goldstein, a 71-year-old from Long Island, New York, who voted for Mitt Romney four years ago. "He certainly would give me a reason not to vote for Hillary."
The poll reveals that Republicans generally like Pence better than Trump. Eight-one percent of Republican likely voters have a favorable view of Pence, while 68 percent say the same of Trump.
More than 8 in 10 Democrats have a favorable view of Clinton.
Overall, 79 percent of likely Republican voters say they're supporting Trump this year. That number rises slightly to 85 percent if forced to choose only between Trump and Clinton. But 91 percent say they would support Pence in a head-to-head matchup against Clinton.
Scott Wood, a 61-year-old retired policeman from Hanover, Pennsylvania, acknowledges that he doesn't know Pence very well. But he knows Trump — and doesn't like him.
The registered Republican says he simply can't support either presidential candidate at this point.
"One of them acts like a 10 year-old-child and I don't trust the other," Wood said, suggesting he might leave the presidential choice blank on his ballot. "I don't have a lot of information on Mike Pence. I'd have to do more research, of course. But he appears to be a more normal conservative than Trump."
The AP-GfK Poll of 1,546 adults, including 1,212 likely voters, was conducted online Oct. 20-24, using a sample drawn from GfK's probability-based KnowledgePanel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 2.75 percentage points, and for likely voters is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using telephone or mail survey methods and later interviewed online. People selected for KnowledgePanel who didn't have access to the internet were provided access for free.
Poll results: http://ap-gfkpoll.com