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First Read: Jeb Bush Leads the GOP Pack

Image: Republican U.S. presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Bush formally announces campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during kickoff rally in Miami

Republican U.S. presidential candidate and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush formally announces his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination during a kickoff rally in Miami, Florida June 15, 2015. REUTERS/Joe Skipper JOE SKIPPER / Reuters

First Read is a morning briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

Jeb leads the GOP pack

A brand-new national NBC/WSJ poll finds Jeb Bush leading the crowded Republican presidential field, with 22% of GOP primary voters saying he's their first choice. He's followed by Scott Walker at 17%, Marco Rubio at 14%, and Ben Carson at 11%. While Jeb had a similar five-point lead in our April NBC/WSJ poll, you see his current position has strengthened when you look inside the numbers of this new poll. (It was conducted during the buildup and coverage of Bush's official presidential announcement on June 16.) The latest survey shows him ahead among self-identified conservative GOP primary voters -- when he was in third place in April behind Rubio and Walker. And as we unveiled on Sunday, 75% of Republican primary voters in our new poll say they could see themselves supporting Bush -- up from 70% in April and 49% in March. Bottom line: While Jeb has plenty of potential problems to overcome (his last name, his positions on immigration and Common Core, his desire to run a general-election campaign instead of one aimed at GOP primary voters), this poll is very good news for him.

How Do The Candidates Stack Up? 0:54

Who gets left off that first debate stage?

The NBC/WSJ poll measured 16 GOP candidates in our horserace question. And here are the 10 Republicans who make our poll's Top 10 -- the criteria being used for the first GOP debate in August -- and the six who get left off:

  1. Jeb Bush 22%
  2. Scott Walker 17%
  3. Marco Rubio 14%
  4. Ben Carson 11%
  5. Mike Huckabee 9%
  6. Rand Paul 7%
  7. Rick Perry 5%
  8. Ted Cruz 4%
  9. Chris Christie 4%
  10. Carly Fiorina 2%
  11. Donald Trump 1%
  12. Lindsey Graham 1%
  13. John Kasich 1%
  14. Bobby Jindal 0%
  15. Rick Santorum 0%
  16. George Pataki 0%

Who has upside among GOP voters? And who doesn't?

In addition to the GOP horserace question, our NBC/WSJ asked Republican primary voters this question: Could you see yourselves supporting this candidate or not? The responses are telling:

  • Rubio: 74% yes, 15% no (+59)
  • Bush: 75%-22% (+53)
  • Walker: 57%-19% (+38)
  • Huckabee: 65%-32% (+33)
  • Carson: 50%-21% (+29)
  • Perry: 53%-31% (+22)
  • Cruz: 51%-31% (+20)
  • Santorum: 49%-40% (+9)
  • Jindal: 36%-28% (+8)
  • Paul: 49%-45% (+4)
  • Fiorina: 31%-29% (+2)
  • Kasich: 25%-30% (-5)
  • Christie: 36%-55% (-19)
  • Graham: 27%-49% (-22)
  • Pataki: 13%-44% (-31)
  • Trump 32%-66% (-34)

Full NBC/WSJ poll comes out at 6:30 pm ET

So who leads the Democratic horserace? Who has the upside in support in the Dem field? How does Hillary Clinton stack up in hypothetical general-election matchups? And what is President Obama's approval rating? Check back at 6:30 pm ET, when the full NBC/WSJ poll is released.

What dynasty issue?

Over the weekend, our NBC/WSJ poll also listed the top concerns that voters have about the upcoming presidential election. The top concerns: wealthy individuals and corporations that have too much influence over who wins (33%), too much of the campaign spent on negative attacks instead of proposing solutions (25%), nothing changing no matter who wins (16%), and too many wealthy candidates who don't understand the problems of ordinary Americans (12%). The concern at the very bottom? Dynastic candidates. Only 4% said their top concern was too many people from the same families running for president, a la Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. While we often hear that the American public doesn't care about campaign-finance reform, don't dismiss this No.1 concern in our poll -- wealthy individuals and corporations having too much influence over who wins.

GOP candidates divided over South Carolina's Confederate flag

At the beginning of the weekend, Mitt Romney seemed to give the 2016 presidential candidates lots of cover over South Carolina's Confederate flag -- after the tragic Charleston church shooting. "Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims," he tweeted. Jeb Bush followed him about 95% of the way, but wasn't as direct as Romney was. "My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear. In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged… Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I'm confident they will do the right thing." But other Republicans said that it was up to the state to decide, or that the time wasn't right to have the debate:

  • Rubio: "This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do," he said;
  • Walker: "I just think before I or anyone else weighs in on anything to do with policy, whether it's this or any other policy decisions, we should honor the dead and the families by allowing them to bury their loved ones. And then you could perfectly ask me that question at some point in the next week or two when that's done," he said;
  • Huckabee: "For those of us running for president, everyone's being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. And my position is: It most certainly does not," he said on "Meet the Press."

Rick Perry on how NOT to talk about the Charleston shooting

In an interview with the conservative site Newsmax, Rick Perry said: "'This is the M.O. of this administration, anytime there is a accident like this,' Perry told Steve Malzberg. 'You know, the president's clear. He doesn't like for Americans to have guns, and so he uses every opportunity — this being another one — to basically go parrot that message.'" Accident? Perry's campaign later said he meant "incident." He later cleaned things up when speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition on Saturday. "I think we all come here today with heavy hearts for those individuals in Charleston -- those Charleston Christians -- who were gunned down in an absolute heinous hate crime inside of their place of worship," Perry said. Remember, Perry really has no margin for error in his second bid for the White House.