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New poll shows Clinton trailing top GOPers in key swing states

Three key swing states are turning on Hillary Clinton, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday. And Bernie Sanders isn't far behind.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns in Iowa (Photo by Daniel Acker/Bloomberg/Getty).
Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, listens during her introduction at a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on July 17, 2015.

Three key swing states are turning on Hillary Clinton, according to a new Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday.

In Colorado, Iowa, and Virginia, the Democratic Party's front-runner for the presidential nomination has fallen behind three of the GOP's leading candidates in hypothetical general election match-ups.

The poll found Florida Sen. Marco Rubio leading the former secretary of state by a margin of 46% to 38% in Colorado, 44% to 36% in Iowa, and 43% to 41% in Virginia. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush beats Clinton 41% to 36% in Colorado, 42% to 36% in Iowa, and 42% to 39% in Virginia. And Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker bests her with 47% to 38% in Colorado, 45% to 37% in Iowa, and 43% to 40% in Virginia.

Back in April, Quinnipiac found Clinton leading the majority of those same hypothetical contests. But the likely cause of that declining support may be more concerning to Clinton than the poll's headline results -- majorities in all three states said they believe Clinton is "not honest or trustworthy."

"What they are focused on is the gap between her and Bernie Sanders lessening. He wasn’t expected to be in play anyway, and now he is."'

Three months ago, 45% of Iowa voters saw Clinton favorably compared to 47% unfavorably. Now, only 33% of Iowans see her in a positive light, while 56% disapprove. In all three of the swing states, the only candidate of either party with higher unfavorables than Clinton is former reality star and current gaffe-factory Donald Trump.

Few political analysts put much stock in a single poll taken more than a year before an election. And in national surveys, Clinton consistently posts commanding leads over her GOP rivals.

"I give no credence to any poll that’s taken now," former RNC chairman and current msnbc analyst Michael Steele said in an interview. "It means absolutely nothing. It is the quintessential definition of nothingness. Because, by and large, the American people are on summer vacation."

Still, Quinnipiac's findings call into question one of Clinton's most powerful advantages in the Democratic primary -- her perceived "electability."

Over the past month, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has crept up on Clinton in Democratic primary polls while drawing record crowds in Wisconsin, Arizona, and Texas. And on several key issues, Sanders is more in tune with the party's progressive base -- the senator has sponsored legislation to break up the major Wall Street banks and raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, policies deeply popular with progressives but which Clinton has thus far neglected to advocate.

At least some of Clinton's Democratic supporters are sympathetic to Sanders' message, but believe the self-described democratic socialist would be too risky a standard-bearer for the party in a general election. But based on the results of Wednesday's poll, it's plausible to argue that in these three swing states, Vermont's independent senator could be the safer bet.

RELATED: Bernie Sanders draws largest crowds yet in Phoenix

Sanders actually outperforms Clinton against Bush and Rubio in Iowa, the state where he has spent the most time on the campaign trail. And he performs nearly as well as Clinton against all three Republicans in Colorado. Sanders still loses in each of the hypothetical general election match-ups. But he has nowhere near Clinton's unfavorable numbers, and the fact that he's polling best in the place where he's spent the most time suggests he could gain popularity as the campaign continues.

"The head to head, for Clinton people, losing to Marco Rubio is a yawn on a good day. They’re just not focused on that. What they are focused on is the gap between her and Bernie Sanders lessening," said Steele. "He wasn’t expected to be in play anyway, and now he is. Couple that with her rising unfavorables and they’re definitely looking at that."