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Jeb Bush surges to lead GOP pack in new 2016 poll

A brand-new national NBC/WSJ poll finds Jeb Bush leading the crowded Republican field, with 22% of GOP primary voters saying he’s their first choice.

Jeb leads the GOP pack, according to brand-new national NBC/WSJ poll… Who makes that first debate, per the poll? And who gets left off?… Full NBC/WSJ poll comes out at 6:30 pm ET… What dynasty issue?... GOP candidates divided over South Carolina’s Confederate flag… And Rick Perry on how NOT to talk about the Charleston shooting.


Which moments are shaping the presidential race? Click the image above to see an interactive timeline of the 2016 race.
Which moments are shaping the presidential race? Click the image above to see an interactive timeline of the 2016 race.

*** Who gets left off that first debate stage? The NBC/WSJ poll measured 16 GOP candidates in our horserace question. And here are the 10 Republicans who make our poll’s Top 10 -- the criteria being used for the first GOP debate in August -- and the six who get left off:

  1. Jeb Bush 22%
  2. Scott Walker 17%
  3. Marco Rubio 14%
  4. Ben Carson 11%
  5. Mike Huckabee 9%
  6. Rand Paul 7%
  7. Rick Perry 5%
  8. Ted Cruz 4%
  9. Chris Christie 4%
  10. Carly Fiorina 2%
  11. Donald Trump 1%
  12. Lindsey Graham 1%
  13. John Kasich 1%
  14. Bobby Jindal 0%
  15. Rick Santorum 0%
  16. George Pataki 0%

*** Who has upside among GOP voters? And who doesn’t? In addition to the GOP horserace question, our NBC/WSJ asked Republican primary voters this question: Could you see yourselves supporting this candidate or not? The responses are telling:

  • Rubio: 74% yes, 15% no (+59)
  • Bush: 75%-22% (+53)
  • Walker: 57%-19% (+38)
  • Huckabee: 65%-32% (+33)
  • Carson: 50%-21% (+29)
  • Perry: 53%-31% (+22)
  • Cruz: 51%-31% (+20)
  • Santorum: 49%-40% (+9)
  • Jindal: 36%-28% (+8)
  • Paul: 49%-45% (+4)
  • Fiorina: 31%-29% (+2)
  • Kasich: 25%-30% (-5)
  • Christie: 36%-55% (-19)
  • Graham: 27%-49% (-22)
  • Pataki: 13%-44% (-31)
  • Trump 32%-66% (-34)

*** Full NBC/WSJ poll comes out at 6:30 pm ET: So who leads the Democratic horserace? Who has the upside in support in the Dem field? How does Hillary Clinton stack up in hypothetical general-election matchups? And what is President Obama’s approval rating? Check back at 6:30 pm ET, when the full NBC/WSJ poll is released.

*** What dynasty issue? Over the weekend, our NBC/WSJ poll also listed the top concerns that voters have about the upcoming presidential election. The top concerns: wealthy individuals and corporations that have too much influence over who wins (33%), too much of the campaign spent on negative attacks instead of proposing solutions (25%), nothing changing no matter who wins (16%), and too many wealthy candidates who don’t understand the problems of ordinary Americans (12%). The concern at the very bottom? Dynastic candidates. Only 4% said their top concern was too many people from the same families running for president, a la Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, and Rand Paul. While we often hear that the American public doesn’t care about campaign-finance reform, don’t dismiss this No.1 concern in our poll -- wealthy individuals and corporations having too much influence over who wins.

*** GOP candidates divided over South Carolina’s Confederate flag: At the beginning of the weekend, Mitt Romney seemed to give the 2016 presidential candidates lots of cover over South Carolina’s Confederate flag -- after the tragic Charleston church shooting. “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol. To many, it is a symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor #Charleston victims,” he tweeted. Jeb Bush followed him about 95% of the way, but wasn’t as direct as Romney was. “My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear. In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged… Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I’m confident they will do the right thing.” But other Republicans said that it was up to the state to decide, or that the time wasn’t right to have the debate:

  • Rubio: "This is an issue that they should debate and work through and not have a bunch of outsiders going in and telling them what to do," he said;
  • Walker:  "I just think before I or anyone else weighs in on anything to do with policy, whether it's this or any other policy decisions, we should honor the dead and the families by allowing them to bury their loved ones. And then you could perfectly ask me that question at some point in the next week or two when that's done," he said;
  • Huckabee: "For those of us running for president, everyone's being baited with this question as if somehow that has anything to do whatsoever with running for president. And my position is: It most certainly does not," he said on “Meet the Press.”

*** Rick Perry on how NOT to talk about the Charleston shooting: In an interview with the conservative site Newsmax, Rick Perry said: “This is the M.O. of this administration, anytime there is a accident like this,’ Perry told Steve Malzberg. ‘You know, the president’s clear. He doesn’t like for Americans to have guns, and so he uses every opportunity — this being another one — to basically go parrot that message.’” Accident? Perry’s campaign later said he meant “incident.” He later cleaned things up when speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition on Saturday. "I think we all come here today with heavy hearts for those individuals in Charleston -- those Charleston Christians -- who were gunned down in an absolute heinous hate crime inside of their place of worship," Perry said. Remember, Perry really has no margin for error in his second bid for the White House.

OBAMA AGENDA: Lowering his guard

Obama has recently displayed a human side that has been absent for most of his presidency, the New York Times writes.

He used the N-word during a discussion about race on a podcast interview released Monday.

Over the weekend, the president inserted himself into California’s water-use debate as the commander-in-chief hit a lush golf course in the state during the midst of a severe drought, the New York Times writes.

Washington is in a frenzy over the forthcoming Supreme Court decision that will likely be the final major legal threat to Obamacare, The Hill reports.

Per the Wall Street Journal: “Jonathan Gruber, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist whose comments about the health-care law touched off a political furor, worked more closely than previously known with the White House and top federal officials to shape the law, previously unreleased emails show.”

CONGRESS: Trade scramble Trade will again dominate Capitol Hill this week as Congress scramble to pass President Obama’s trade agenda before going on recess, The Hill outlines. “The Senate vote on Trade Promotion Authority will amount to a test of faith,” Roll Call writes.

OFF TO THE RACES: GOP candidates tread carefully on SC’s Confederate flag

“Jeb Bush's standing among Republican primary voters continues to improve, Marco Rubio remains popular with the party and two-thirds of GOP voters say they couldn't support Donald Trump,” one of us wrote.

Also from our poll: Voters top concerns of the 2016 election are wealthy individuals and corporations who might have too much influence who over wins, as well as campaigns that spend more time on negative attacks than proposing solutions.

GOP presidential candidates looking towards the South Carolina primary are treading carefully on the question of whether or the state should remove the Confederate flag from outside the statehouse, the New York Times writes.

“The leader of a rightwing group that Dylann Roof allegedly credits with helping to radicalise him against black people before the Charleston church massacre has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Republicans such as presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Rick Santorum,” the Guardian writes.

The race is on to court Latino voters, The Washington Post reports.

BUSH: The National Journal reports on Bush’s Obamacare alternative and the problem it poses for the GOP.

CARSON: In an op/ed in USA Today, the only African-American 2016 presidential candidate has a simple message on the Charleston shooting: Call it racism.

KASICH:  Preparing for a presidential run, Gov. John Kasich told the Christian Broadcasting Network “amateur hour is over.”

O’MALLEY: He called on South Carolina to remove the Confederate flag and suggested that Congress had fallen under the sway of “white racism” on Sunday, the Los Angeles times reports.

PAUL: A pro-Paul super PAC is out with a website and digital ad “highlighting Jeb Bush’s support for bailouts,” Politico reports.

SANDERS: The Vermont senator brought out 5,500 in Denver over the weekend, the Denver Post reports.

CRUZ: The AP issued a statement in response to a photo of Ted Cruz at a 2nd Amendment celebration that appeared as though a gun was pointed at his head.

A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll find Cruz leads the GOP field in Texas. Rick Perry is a distant second.

And around the country…

Democrats hold a small edge in Florida and Ohio Senate races, while GOP Sen. Pat Toomey is ahead in Pennsylvania, a new Quinnipiac poll finds.

Carrie Dann contributed reporting.