Former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) addresses the National Review Institute's 2015 Ideas Summit in Washington, on April 30, 2015.
Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Jeb Bush leads in the GOP field, but struggles big time with conservatives

Jeb’s ahead of GOP field, but he’s struggling with conservatives … He’s also in SEVENTH place in Iowa, per new Quinnipiac poll … Where the national NBC/WSJ and NYT/CBS polls agree and disagree on Hillary … Hillary makes big immigration news: To quote Admiral Ackbar, it’s a trap for Republicans … Has Obama’s support for free trade moved the political needle among Democrats? It looks that way in the NBC/WSJ poll … And Huckabee takes shots at, well, much of the 2016 field in his presidential announcement.

FIRST THOUGHTS

*** 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.

RELATED: Jeb Bush exploits major loophole in campaign finance rule

*** 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%-4% 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.

OBAMA AGENDA: Obama’s new joint chiefs chairman

The Wall Street Journal: “Tuesday’s nomination of a new Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman began the formal winding down of Gen. Martin Dempsey’s tenure. Yet Gen. Dempsey’s vision—one of caution about U.S. military engagements and reliance on local partners—is expected to prevail through the end of Barack Obama’s term.” 

“Washington wants to be certain that any nuclear deal between Iran and major powers includes the possibility of restoring U.N. sanctions if Tehran breaks the agreement without risking Russian and Chinese vetoes, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday,” Reuters writes. “United Nations sanctions and a future mechanism for Iran to buy atomic technology are two core sticking points in talks on a possible nuclear deal on which Tehran and world powers have been struggling to overcome deep divisions in recent days, diplomats said on condition of anonymity.”

The Washington Post reports on new questions about surveillance planes spotted in the air during riots in West Baltimore.

The latest from Baltimore, from the AP: “Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake will announce a new partnership between the city and the U.S. Department of Justice.”

CONGRESS: Senate passes budget resolution

Our own Frank Thorp, on Republican frustration with Tom Cotton and Marco Rubio re: the Iran bill.

The Wall Street Journal, on freshman Sen. Tom Cotton: “Among this year’s crop of 13 newly minted senators, Mr. Cotton, who served one term in the House, has emerged early on as the most vocal and polarizing newcomer, set apart by his headline-grabbing foreign policy.”

The Senate passed its first joint budget resolution in more than five years.

OFF TO THE RACES: Hillary goes big on immigration

A new New York Times/CBS poll finds that Hillary Clinton’s favorability ratings have remained robust despite scrutiny of the Clinton Foundation — and that Republicans are most open to Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Mike Huckabee.

What kind of candidate are voters ready for? We crunched the numbers from our latest poll.

Al Gore thinks Iowa could change the debate over climate change. “”It’s hard to miss the importance of a state that is simultaneously the first contest in the presidential contest and the number one producer of wind electricity in the country with a fast-growing solar economy also,” Gore told The Des Moines Register. “You put those two things together and I think Iowa has a tremendous potential for pushing this onto the agenda of (presidential) candidates in both parties.”

BUSH: In a new op-ed in the Chicago Tribune, Jeb Bush writes that “the War on Poverty has failed. 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.”

CHRISTIE: “New Jersey Republicans for the first time say there’s another likely 2016 White House contender who would make a better president than Gov. Chris Christie, according to a new poll,” writes NJ.com.

On Bridgegate, he told reporters “If they want to subpoena me, that’s fine.”

CLINTON: NBC’s Andrew Rafferty sums up Hillary Clinton’s aggressive stance on immigration Tuesday night, when she said “If Congress refuses to act, as president, I would do everything possible under the law to go even further.”

The Washington Post’s Phil Rucker gets Chelsea Clinton on the record defending the Clinton Foundation. “Whenever I have had a conversation with anyone, it’s always about the work. I’ve never had anyone talk to me about my parents in a political capacity for a foundation program.”

HUCKABEE: NBC’s Leigh Ann Caldwell sums up Huckabee’s announcement yesterday, and NBC’s Perry Bacon Jr. writes on how he’s still a long shot for the nomination.

The New York Times writes that Huckabee’s promise not to change government programs for older Americans sets him apart from other Republicans.

McClatchy: “Mike Huckabee’s back, hoping to lead a determined army of evangelical conservatives and blue-collar Republicans en route to the Republican presidential nomination and then the White House.”

WALKER: He’s leading a new Iowa poll from Quinnipiac.

And around the country…

FLORIDA: The AP reports that Republican Rep. Ron DeSantis will announce today that he’s running for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat.

NEW YORK: Staten Island district attorney Daniel Donovan easily won the special election for the House seat vacated by Michael Grimm.

And around the world …

UNITED KINGDOM: From our colleagues in London, here’s NBCNews.com’s primer on everything you need to know about the elections in the U.K. tomorrow.

The Wall Street Journal looks at how David Cameron has struggled to turn the economic recovery into votes.

 NBC News’ Mark Murray, and Carrie Dann contributed to this article.

Jeb Bush

Jeb Bush leads in the GOP field, but struggles big time with conservatives