Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated  / Source: NBC News
By Carrie Dann

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio lead the pack of Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for president, according to a new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal.

Asked which Republican hopeful would be their first choice to win the party’s primary, 23 percent of GOP primary voters chose Bush. An additional 14 percent picked him as a second choice.

Eighteen percent of GOP primary voters said that they favored Rubio most, while another 23 percent selected the Florida senator as their second choice for the Republican nod.

Rubio posted particularly impressive numbers when GOP primary voters were asked which potential candidates they could definitely see themselves supporting. Seventy-four percent said they could imagine backing him, while only 15 percent said they could not imagine supporting him (net +59).

Seven in ten Republican primary voters said they could envision backing Jeb Bush, but more than a quarter – 27 percent – nixed that notion (net +43).

Rubio, who is 43, announced his presidential run last month in Miami. Bush has not formally announced his run yet but has amassed a sizable war chest through his super PAC, Right to Rise.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who enjoyed a surge in support after a well-received address at an Iowa conservative gathering earlier this year, is the first choice of 14 percent of primary voters and the second choice of another 13 percent. Sixty-one percent GOP primary voters said they could imagine themselves supporting him, while 16 percent disagreed (net +45).

While all three men enjoy significant Republican support, Bush, Rubio and Walker each trail likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in head-to-head contests.

Bush gets 43 percent in a hypothetical general election matchup, compared to Clinton's 49 percent; Rubio's margin compared to Clinton is identical to his fellow Floridian's. And Clinton bests Walker 50 percent to 40 percent.

Also receiving double digit support as either a first or second choice candidate were Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (20 percent total), Texas senator Ted Cruz (18 percent total), former neurosurgeon Ben Carson (11 percent total), New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (14 percent total) and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (15 percent total).

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, who announced her presidential run Monday and is expected to be the only female Republican in the presidential field, garners only three percent of GOP primary voters who cite her as a top choice. Fifteen percent of Republicans told pollsters that they would be “enthusiastic” about a candidate who is a woman, compared to 30 percent of independents and 45 percent of Democrats who said the same.

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 251 Republican primary voters is plus-minus 6.2 percentage points.