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By Mark Murray, Chuck Todd and Carrie Dann

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’s ahead of GOP field, but he’s struggling with conservatives

There are two ways to look at our most recent NBC/WSJ poll when it comes to Jeb Bush. One, he’s in first place in the national GOP trial heat with 23% of Republican voters saying he’s their first choice -- followed by Marco Rubio at 18%, Scott Walker at 14%, and Rand Paul and Ted Cruz at 11%. Also, he’s greatly improved his standing with GOP voters: Back in March, they said they could see themselves supporting Bush by just a 49%-42% margin. Now? It’s 70%-27% -- a significant jump, which our pollsters say they can’t explain. But here’s a second way to look at Bush in the NBC/WSJ poll: He’s struggling with conservatives, big time. Here’s a fav/unfav ranking of the five 2016 Republicans we tested among just self-described conservatives:

  1. Rubio: 41%-8% (+33)
  2. Walker: 31%-4% (+27)
  3. Paul: 38%-15% (+23)
  4. Cruz: 36%-13% (+23)
  5. Bush: 33%-28% (+5)

To put Jeb’s 33%-28% fav/unfav performance with conservatives into perspective, here’s Hillary’s fav/unfav among liberals in the NBC/WSJ poll: 72%-15%. That’s why this matters. And it’s just not conservatives. Jeb’s fav/unfav among Republicans is 38%-20%, and among GOP primary voters, it’s 43%-19% -- again, at or near the bottom of the five GOPers we measured.

Bush in seventh place in Iowa, per Quinnipiac poll

Then there’s today’s Quinnipiac poll of Iowa, which has Jeb in SEVENTH place. The numbers among likely caucus-goers: Walker 21%, Paul 13%, Rubio 13%, Cruz 12%, Huckabee 11%, Carson 7%, and Bush 5%. There’s also this: “Bush tops the list at 25 percent, followed by New Jersey Gov. Christopher Christie with 20 percent, when likely Republican Caucus participants are asked if there is any candidate they would definitely not support. Paul is next on this negative list with 10 percent.” The one piece of good news for Bush: There’s nowhere to go but up… Meanwhile, Jeb writes a Chicago Tribune op-ed on Baltimore in which he says that the War on Poverty has failed and that it’s time for conservative solutions. Among them: "If our government leaders want to attack poverty, they should first acknowledge that an effective anti-poverty program is a strong family, led by two parents."

Where the NBC/WSJ and NYT/CBS polls agree and disagree on Hillary

Two somewhat different headlines in the last couple of days:

Where the two polls appear to disagree: NBC/WSJ has her fav/unfav declining from 44%-36% in March to 42%-42% now (which is still the best score for any 2016er), while NYT/CBS has her favorability rating improving, although it has her net fav/unfav about even. Also, NBC/WSJ showed just 25% of all voters giving Hillary high marks for being honest and straightforward, while NYT/CBS has 48% viewing her as honest and trustworthy, versus 45% who don’t. But here is where the two polls absolutely agree: She’s “starting her second presidential bid with an unusual durability among Democratic voters,” as the Times writes. Indeed, here is what we wrote: “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.”

To quote Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap”

Speaking of Hillary, she made some big immigration news yesterday. “Democratic presidential front runner Hillary Clinton pledged Tuesday to take further executive actions if Congress fails to pass comprehensive immigration reform,” NBC’s Andrew Rafferty says. “And Clinton said that if she is elected president she would expand DACA provisions to include parents who had deep roots in the United States.” This sure looks like a trap Clinton is setting for Republicans -- take a position even FURTHER than Obama’s on executive action for undocumented immigrants to force Republicans to react. Indeed, whenever the GOP conversation turns to immigration, bad things tend to happen to the party (see that DHS funding battle). The RNC reacted to Hillary’s remarks, but it focused on personality instead of policy. “Hillary Clinton can try to distract from her foreign donor scandals by rolling out a new policy position, but her history of flip-flopping on this issue and many others only reinforces why votes see her as dishonest and untrustworthy,” the RNC said in a statement.

Has Obama’s support for free trade moved the political needle among Democrats?

In one of the more surprising results in our new NBC/WSJ poll, the country is much more pro-free trade than it’s been in years. And that’s due, in part, to key parts of the Democratic base support free trade. For the first time in the poll since 1999, more Americans say that free trade has helped the U.S. (37%) more than it’s hurt (31%). And much of that movement has come from -- get this -- key parts of the Democratic base. In 2010, just 14% of African Americans said that free trade helped more than hurt, and that percentage was 19% in 2014. Now, it’s jumped up to 31%. Among Latinos, it’s gone from 28% in 2010 and 31% in 2014 to 47% now. And among Democrats as a whole, it was 27% help in 2010, 26% in 2014, and it’s 43% now. By comparison, just 33% of Republicans say free trade helps more than hurts. What these numbers suggest to us: President Obama, who has championed the TPP free-trade accord, still has juice inside his party and coalition. Yes, the numbers from our NBC/WSJ poll haven’t translated to Democratic congressional support -- indeed, much of the party’s congressional delegation appears to be AGAINST the free-trade deal. But they indicate that a Democratic politician isn’t going to be punished for supporting fast track and the free-trade agreement. Is this the cover that Hillary needs?

Huckabee takes shots at, well, much of the 2016 field

In 2007-2008, Mike Huckabee was the happy warrior, which helped propel him to his Iowa caucus victory. But consider his presidential announcement yesterday in Arkansas, where he took not-so-veiled shots at almost the entire 2016 field:

  • “I don’t have a global foundation or a taxpayer funded paycheck to live off of. I don’t come from a family dynasty but a working family. I grew up blue collar, not blue blood.” (Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush)
  • “If you live off the government payroll, and you want to run for an office other than the one you've been elected to, then at least have the integrity and decency to resign the one that you don’t want anymore, and to pursue one that you decided you'd rather have.” (That not only describes Rand Paul, who is running for TWO offices, but also current officeholders Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker.)
  • “If Congress wants to take away someone’s retirement, let them end their own Congressional pensions-not your Social Security.” (Chris Christie)

On the trail

Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Jim Webb are all in Iowa… John Kasich is in New Hampshire… And Bernie Sanders holds a presser on Capitol Hill to introduce legislation breaking up the nation’s biggest banks.

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