Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s apparent decision to speed up his entry into the growing field of 2016 Republican presidential primary challengers is coming at the perfect time, as a new poll out Friday shows him moving into second place behind repeat candidate Mitt Romney.

What’s more, the gap in the new Zogby Analytics poll is tiny, just three percentage points. And Rubio, the freshest hopeful to show a determined interest in the race, is also tied with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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Zogby’s online poll found Romney with 16 percent support and Rubio and Bush tied at 13 percent.

The poll finds that women especially favor Rubio and also that he has a lot of room to gain with men, who typically vote in majorities with Republicans in the general election.

 

Romney does better among men (20%) than women (13%) and among self-identified Republicans (19%). Bush also does better among men (16%) than women (10%) and gets 14% support among self-identified Republicans (14%). But Rubio is receiving 22% support among women to only 4% of men and does equally well (16% each) among both self-identified Republicans and conservatives.

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“The sample is of course small but there is enough data to draw some conclusions,” said Zogby in his analysis.

“The first is that there is certainly no runaway frontrunner," he added. "At a time when name recognition matters, both the former party nominee and the scion of the nation's preeminent Republican family are polling anemically. The second takeaway is the fact that Rubio has entered the first tier, especially among GOP women and is able to do well among both establishment and conservative voters. He has gained 6 points just in the last month. He will definitely receive more scrutiny and we will see if he can emerge as the frontrunner.”

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Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.