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Walker and Bush: Meet Your Republican Presidential Frontrunners

Image: Scott Walker

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the American Action Forum in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015. Shifting his focus to Washington, Walker is expanding his political operation as he fights for early momentum in the increasingly crowded field of GOP White House prospects. The American Action Forum calls itself a center-right policy institute. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) J. Scott Applewhite / AP

There are two big takeaways from our new NBC/Marist polls of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina that we released yesterday. First, with less than a year before the first nominating contests, the Republican presidential field is wide open -- seven different possible GOP candidates get double-digit support in at least one of the states. Second, only two potential candidates (former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker) are in double digits in ALL three states. So call Bush and Walker your very early 2016 Republican frontrunners. Here is the breakdown among potential GOP caucus-goers and primary voters:
  • Iowa: Mike Huckabee 17%, Jeb Bush 16%, Scott Walker 15%, Chris Christie 9%, Rand Paul 7%, Marco Rubio 6%, Ben Carson 6%, Rick Santorum 5%, Rick Perry 4%, Ted Cruz 2%, Lindsey Graham 1%.
  • New Hampshire: Bush 18%, Walker 15%, Paul 14%, Christie 13%, Huckabee 7%, Carson 7%, Cruz 6%, Rubio 6%, Perry 1%, Graham 1%, Santorum 1%.
  • South Carolina: Graham 17%, Bush 15%, Walker 12%, Huckabee 10% and Carson 10%, Paul 7%, Christie 6%, Rubio 4%, Perry 4%, Santorum 3%, Cruz 1%.
Bush and Walker have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. And if you were to award a point system for poll position in each state (5 points for 1st place, 4 points for 2nd, 3 points for 3rd, 4 points for 4th, 1 point for 5th), your top four would be Bush, Walker, Huckabee, and Paul (tied with Graham). That sounds about right.
Hillary (not surprisingly) is crushing the Democratic opposition: On the Democratic side, meanwhile, Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead over her potential Dem rivals in all three states:
  • Iowa: Hillary Clinton 68%, Joe Biden 12%, Bernie Sanders 7%, Jim Webb 1%
  • New Hampshire: Clinton 69%, Sanders 13%, Biden 8%, Webb 2%
  • South Carolina: Clinton 65%, Biden 20%, Sanders 3%, Webb 2%, Martin O'Malley 2%.
Note: Our polls did not include Elizabeth Warren in these trial heats because she continues to insist -- in both the present and future tenses -- that she won't be running for president in 2016. All of the possible candidates that the polls measured either have formed committees to explore a run, have begun to hire staff, or at least have left open the possibility of a White House bid.
Hillary is ahead in the general, but an important reminder here: In hypothetical general-election match-ups among registered voters, Clinton leads both Bush and Walker in the battlegrounds of Iowa and New Hampshire. In Iowa, Clinton holds an eight-point advantage over Bush, 48%-40%, and an 11-point edge over Walker, 49%-38%. In New Hampshire, Clinton is up by six points over Bush (48%-42%) and seven points over Walker (49% to 42%). But here's an important reminder about this 2016 polling: It's still VERY early. Indeed, Rudy Giuliani was ahead of Clinton by five points (47%-42%) in our national March 2007 NBC/WSJ poll, and the former New York City mayor led Obama by six points (45%-39%). Also, while Clinton is ahead in Iowa and New Hampshire, President Barack Obama isn't much of an asset for her in these two states, with his job-approval rating at 43% in both.
Looking at the issues: What's acceptable and what isn't: In addition, our NBC/Marist polls tested seven key issues -- 1) supporting Common Core, 2) supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, 3) wanting to repeal the federal health-care law, 4) believing that climate change is man-made, 5) opposing gay marriage, 6) favoring raising taxes on the wealthy and 7) wanting to send more U.S. troops to combat ISIS -- to see which were the most acceptable and unacceptable to voters in these three states. A few of the findings here: In both Iowa and New Hampshire, supporting a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants is seen as a bigger negative among GOP voters than supporting Common Core. Among ALL registered voters in all three states, the most UNACCEPTABLE issue stance is opposing gay marriage. The most ACCEPTABLE among all registered voters and Democrats: a candidate who wants to raise taxes on the wealthy. The most UNACCEPTABLE among Republicans: believing climate change is man-made (in Iowa and South Carolina) and raising taxes on the wealthy (New Hampshire).
Republicans are divided in DHS funding spat: In our experience, there's a simple rule to follow to make sense of any shutdown showdown: The side that's divided usually loses. And Republicans are the ones who are divided in the battle over funding the Department of Homeland Security -- over whether or not to include riders overturning Obama's executive actions on immigration. Here was House Speaker John Boehner yesterday on Fox:
WALLACE: And what if the Department of Homeland Security funding runs out?
BOEHNER: Well, then, Senate Democrats should to be blame. Very simply.
WALLACE: And you're prepared to let that happen?
BOEHNER: Certainly. The House has acted. We've done our job.
On the other hand, here was Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on "Meet the Press" yesterday: I think it would be terrible [to use DHS funding to protest Obama's immigration actions]. The American people didn't give us the majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans. They want things done. We cannot cut funding for the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out. And there's ways we can address what the president did was unconstitutional. But it's not through shutting down the Department of Homeland Security. It's too serious." Playing politics with security is always problematic. But it's doubly problematic when your party is divided.
Boehner: I didn't want the White House to interfere with Netanyahu's speech: Also on Fox yesterday, Boehner was asked why he and his office instructed Israel's U.S. ambassador not to inform the Obama White House about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu's March speech. Boehner's answer: He didn't want the Commander-in-Chief to interfere. "Because I wanted to make sure that there was no interference," he said. "There's no secret here in Washington about the animosity that this White House has for Prime Minister Netanyahu. And I frankly didn't want them getting in the way and quashing what I thought was a real opportunity."
Obamacare enrollment deadline was yesterday: Yesterday was the deadline for Americans to purchase health insurance in 2015 on the online exchanges (both state and federal). Per the last count, about 10 million had selected plans on these marketplaces. NBC's Maggie Fox: "The administration has projected 9.1 million signups by Feb. 15... There's a little extra urgency because this is the first year that Americans will have to worry about health insurance at tax time. The 2010 Affordable Care Act requires that just about everyone have health insurance or else pay a fee in the form of some extra income tax. Federal officials predict that 2 to 4 percent of taxpayers will end up paying a fine because they didn't have health insurance last year, and they don't want people to have to pay again next year because they missed the deadline to sign up this year."
House of Cards meets Portlandia: That's maybe the best way to describe what has happened in Oregon. NBC News: "Longtime Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber says he will resign next Wednesday due to allegations of public corruption involving his fiancée. Kitzhaber has been under fire since allegations began swirling that his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes, improperly used her position as an energy policy adviser for personal gain by working with outside consulting groups. She's also been accused of failing to disclose her income from consulting work… Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown will become governor once Kitzhaber steps down. She will become the nation's first openly bisexual governor." It's a stunning fall for someone -- Kitzhaber -- who was a legend in Oregon politics.
All of the Presidents' Counties: Finally, given that it's Presidents' Day, don't miss this piece from Dante Chinni: "Out of the 3,100-plus counties in the United States, only 197 are named for former presidents and data around those names and numbers is revealing. As you might expect there are more counties, 31, named for George Washington than for any other president... More than half of the 197 counties, 129 of them, are named after one of the first 10 presidents - Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison and John Tyler."
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PROGRAMMING NOTES:
Monday's "News Nation with Tamron Hall" line-up: Tamron Hall speaks to terror analyst Evan Kohlmann about the threat of lone wolf terrorists in the wake of the attacks in Denmark, legal analyst Lisa Green weighs in on the latest strategy in the Chris Kyle trial, we bring back highlights of SNL's 40th anniversary show, and actor Jeffrey Wright of "The Hunger Games" and "Boardwalk Empire" talks about his efforts to combat Ebola.
Monday's "Andrea Mitchell Reports" line-up: NBC's Andrea Mitchell interviews Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin, Keir Simmons and Charles Hadlock, USA Today's Susan Page and Danish Broadcast Corporation Reporter Peter Keldorff.