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First Read: A Lousy Poll for Almost Every 2016 Candidate

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Republican presidential candidates gather on stage before a forum Monday, Aug. 3, 2015, in Manchester, N.H. From left: Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Scott Walker. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole / AP

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.

A rough poll for almost the entire 2016 field

Here's our top takeaway from the new NBC/WSJ poll we released last night: Almost everyone is in lousy shape. Hillary Clinton's fav/unfav numbers dropped from 44%-40% (+4) in June to 37%-48% (-11) now -- which gives her a worse popularity rating than President Obama has ever had during his presidency. Jeb Bush's fav/unfav rating, at 26%-40% (-14) is even worse -- and it's worse than Mitt Romney ever had at any point in the 2012 race. And Donald Trump, who leads the GOP horserace, is at 26%-56% (-30). Ratings for other Republicans: Chris Christie (-13), Ted Cruz (-12), Rand Paul (-10), Mike Huckabee (-8), Scott Walker (-1), and Marco Rubio (+1). Even President Obama, who has enjoyed a renaissance in his poll numbers as of late, has seen his overall job-approval rating tick down three points to 45%. So the American public is down on almost every political figure and institution in our NBC/WSJ poll. The exceptions: Bernie Sanders (+5), John Kasich (+5), the NRA (+11), and Planned Parenthood (+15). We'll have more on those Planned Parenthood and NRA numbers below.

Now you know why Hillary is up with new TV ads in August

As for Clinton, our poll and the crosstabs in it make it clear why she's going up with TV ads in August: She has some work to do. Yet despite Hillary's sinking favorability rating, she continues to lead the Democratic horserace by a wide margin. She's the top choice of 59% of national Democratic primary voters, while 25% pick Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. They're followed by former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who are tied at 3% each. That margin, however, is smaller than her 60-point national advantage over Sanders a month ago, 75%-15%. What's more, Clinton's fav/unfav numbers among Democratic primary voters -- 73% positive, 13% negative -- remains strong.

Jeb's in rougher shape than the CW suggests

The timing of our NBC/WSJ poll (conducted July 26-30) can possibly explain why Clinton's numbers dropped so much in one month -- it came right after the New York Times and other outlets (including NBC News) originally reported that she was facing the possibility of a criminal inquiry over her use of email while secretary of state. That particular storyline turned out to be incorrect. But the timing doesn't explain why Jeb's standing took a hit. In one month, he went from first to third in the GOP horserace; his fav/unfav ticked down from 27%-36% (-9) to 26%-40% (-14); his fav/unfav among GOP primary voters declined, too, from 53%-15% (+38) to 50%-23% (+27); and the drop was even sharper among those very conservative - from 61%-13% (+48) in June to 46%-29% (+17) now. Folks, these aren't just tough numbers for Jeb; they're hard-to-get-the-nomination numbers.

Rubio's upside

Here's a final point on the 2016 race when it comes to our NBC/WSJ poll: Marco Rubio still has TONS of potential. Despite being in 8th place in our GOP horserace at 5% among GOP primary voters, 62% of these Republicans say they can see themselves supporting Rubio, versus 29% who can't (+33). That's a higher margin than any of the other 2016 Republicans on this scale: Walker (+30), Carson (+22), Bush (+17), Cruz (+14), Huckabee (+9), and Fiorina (+2). Where is Donald Trump? He's at minus-2 on this scale, though that's better than Christie (-18) and Lindsey Graham (-53).

Your most popular figures/institutions in the poll

Planned Parenthood and the NRA: As mentioned above, the most popular politicians and institutions in the NBC/WSJ are -- drum roll, please -- Planned Parenthood and the NRA. And here's the reason why: Independents view Planned Parenthood favorably by 20 points, 45%-25%. And they view the NRA positively by 15 points, 40%-25%. So you want to know why the defund-Planned Parenthood effort went nowhere in the Senate yesterday and why background checks also failed to move through the Senate in 2013 -- look no further than our poll.

Updated: Who's in (and who's out) of that first GOP debate

So a slew of national polls have come out over the last 48 hours (NBC/WSJ, Monmouth, Fox, Bloomberg, and CBS), and here are the updated polling averages to see who's in the Top 10 -- the criteria being used to qualify in that first GOP debate Thursday in Cleveland:

  1. Trump: 23.2%
  2. Bush: 12.8%
  3. Walker: 10.6%
  4. Carson: 6.6%
  5. Huckabee: 6.6%
  6. Cruz: 6.2%
  7. Rubio: 5.2%
  8. Paul: 4.8%
  9. Christie: 3.4%
  10. Kasich: 2.8%
  11. Perry: 2.0%
  12. Santorum: 1.4%
  13. Jindal: 1.2%
  14. Fiorina: 1.0%
  15. Graham: 0.4%
  16. Pataki: 0.2%
  17. Gilmore: 0.2%

Note: Fox News has set today at 5:00 pm ET as the deadline for polls to be considered in the average it's taking for the last five national polls.

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