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Despite Sustaining Hits, Hillary Clinton Remains 'Formidable' in 2016 NBC/WSJ Poll

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is seen in silhouette after delivering the keynote address at the Women in the World summit in New York April 23, 2015. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton SHANNON STAPLETON / Reuters

After weeks of scrutiny and tough questions - over her emails and the Clinton Foundation - here's the bad news for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton: Her image has taken a hit, according to the latest national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

Clinton's unfavorable rating has ticked up six points since March, and the percentage giving her high marks for being honest and straightforward has declined 13 points from a year ago.

But here's the good news for her: Despite these hits, Clinton leads the Republican top-tier candidates in hypothetical general-election match ups. And she's the only 2016 candidate the poll tested who doesn't sport a negative favorable/unfavorable rating.

"Yes, there are challenges with the Clinton name," says Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. "But she remains a uniquely formidable candidate."

Yet McInturff cautions that — with nearly 20 months to go until Nov. 2016 — Clinton "historically has not worn well over a long exposure to the public."

Hillary bests the GOP competition

In the new NBC/WSJ poll, Clinton's favorable/unfavorable rating stands at 42 positive, 42 negative (even) - down from 44 percent positive, 36 percent negative in March (+8).

Still, that break-even rating exceeds the fav/unfav scores for Republicans Marco Rubio (22 percent positive, 23 percent negative), Scott Walker (15 percent positive, 17 percent negative), Rand Paul (23 percent positive, 28 percent negative) and Jeb Bush (23 percent positive, 36 percent negative).

What's more, Clinton's popularity hasn't changed among Democrats, who will choose their party's presidential nominee before the general election begins.

Among Democratic primary voters, Clinton's fav/unfav score is 81 percent positive, 6 percent negative - almost identical to March's 82 percent-4 percent rating.

"All of that information [about Clinton] made no fundamental difference to Democratic primary voters," says McInturff, the GOP pollster.

And looking ahead to the general election, Clinton leads Bush, the former Florida governor, by six points (49 percent to 43 percent); Rubio, the Florida senator, by another six points (49 percent to 43 percent); and Walker, the Wisconsin governor by 10 (50 percent to 40 percent).

The Republican presidential candidate in the poll who comes closest to Clinton is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., 47 percent to 43 percent.

To put Hillary Clinton's numbers into perspective, the poll finds Vice President Joe Biden trailing Jeb Bush by eight points in a hypothetical matchup.

"Consider that she runs even with independent [voters], and Biden loses independents by 30 points," says Yang, the Democratic pollster.

Just 25 percent of all voters give Hillary high marks for being honest and straightforward

The NBC/WSJ poll also ranks Clinton on 11 different presidential qualities. Her top scores among all voters: being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency (51 percent gave her high marks), being effective and getting things done (44 percent) and being compassionate enough to understand average people (43 percent).

Her worst scores: bringing real change to the direction of the country (35 percent), sharing your positions on the issues (35 percent) and being honest and straightforward (25 percent).

Indeed, that honest and straightforward score is a 13-point drop for Clinton since June 2014.

Obama's approval ticks up to 48 percent

Maybe the best news in the poll for Hillary Clinton is the approval rating of the man she's running to succeed - Barack Obama.

Forty-eight percent of all adults in the NBC/WSJ poll approve of the president's job, which is up two points from March.

It's his highest rating in the poll since June 2013.

"President Obama seems to have avoided the slump that plagued George W. Bush after his sixth-year shellacking" in 2006, says Yang, the Democratic pollster.

The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted April 26-30 of 1,000 adults (including more than 350 by cell phone), and it has an overall margin of error of plus-minus 3.1 percentage points. The margin of error among the 273 Democratic primary voters is plus-minus 5.9 percentage points.