By David Lauter, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)
WASHINGTON — Jeb Bush may be the establishment favorite for the Republican presidential nomination, but he still has a lot of work to do to persuade GOP voters to back him, a new poll finds.
By contrast, Democrats seem overwhelmingly willing to support Hillary Rodham Clinton as their party’s nominee, despite unhappiness on the part of some liberal activists and the current controversy over her use of a personal email account while she was secretary of State.
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, released Monday, found that 49 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they could see supporting Bush, the former governor of Florida, while 42 percent said they could not.
Two of Bush’s rivals, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, were more widely acceptable. Just over half (53 percent) of people who expect to vote in the GOP primaries said they could see backing Walker, compared with only 17 percent who said they could not. Rubio drew a similarly one-sided response, 56 percent to 26 percent.
By contrast, the poll delivered harsh news to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie: 57 percent of the likely GOP voters said they could not see supporting him, compared with 32 percent who said they could.
Of 14 GOP figures polled, the only one who did worse than Christie was Donald Trump, the developer and casino owner, whose occasional declarations that he plans to run are usually dismissed as self-promotional stunts.
Among other major GOP figures, former Texas Governor Rick Perry and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul had ratings similar to Bush’s.
On the Democratic side, 86 percent of likely primary voters said they could see supporting Clinton. The poll was conducted Sunday to Thursday of last week, as the controversy over her email use began to bubble.
Voters overall had a positive image of Clinton, with 44 percent viewing her favorably and 36 percent negatively. Bush is less well known, with 23 percent seeing him positively and 34 percent negatively.
The poll does point to one significant area of potential weakness for Clinton: By 51 percent to 44 percent, voters overall said she would represent “a return to policies of the past” rather than “new ideas and vision for the future.”
That could be a liability at a time when 59 percent of voters say they would prefer to see a candidate “who will bring greater changes” than one who is “more experienced and tested.”
But Clinton’s liability on that question is notably less than Bush’s. In his case, 60 percent see him as representing the past, and 27 percent say he would represent the future.
The poll, conducted by a team of pollsters from each party, Bill McInturff from the GOP and Fred Yang from the Democrats, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for the full sample.
Photo: Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks at the Lead On Watermark Silicon Valley Conference for Women on Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2015, in Santa Clara, Calif. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group/TNS)