Clinton early 2016 front-runner — but 'barely': NBC News/WSJ poll

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) questions federal financial regulators about Wall Street reform before a Senate Banking Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington September 9, 2014. (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS) (Jonathan Ernst/REUTERS)

While half of American voters say they could see themselves supporting Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential race, 48 percent could not, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll finds. That makes Clinton "the early presidential front-runner — but barely," NBC reports.

More voters said they would prefer to see a Republican in the White House (40 percent) than a Democrat (38 percent), the survey found. And 71 percent of American voters "want the next president to take a different approach than President Barack Obama's" — something that could come back to sting the former secretary of state, who served in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2013.

And by 40 percent to 38 percent, voters prefer a Republican to win the White House in 2016 instead of a Democrat.

Clinton is the only candidate among possible 2016 contenders to receive more support than opposition, the survey found. Take former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who announced Tuesday he is actively exploring a bid for the White House. Just 31 percent said they could see themselves supporting him in 2016, while 57 percent say they could not.

That's a slightly better margin (-26 percent) than 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney (33 percent support, 60 percent oppose) and roughly the same split received by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (27 percent support, 53 percent oppose).

Among Democratic voters, Clinton has overwhelming support. A vast majority (82 percent) said they could see themselves supporting her if she decides to run in 2016, versus just 15 percent who could not — a 67 percent margin. Both Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren (37 percent support, 25 percent oppose) and Vice President Joe Biden (51 percent support, 41 percent oppose) are a distant second and third among Democratic voters, the poll found.

Among Republican voters, Bush (55 percent support, 34 percent oppose), Romney (63 percent support, 33 percent oppose), Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (47 percent support, 34 percent oppose), former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (47 percent support, 39 percent oppose) received the most support. With 40 percent supporting and 43 percent opposing Christie's candidacy, the New Jersey governor is the only possible candidate to receive net-negative support from Republicans.

While Bush and Clinton enjoy name recognition, the specter of another race involving the political families could prove troubling at the polls.

"[The Bushes and Clintons] are like enduring franchises in American politics,” David Axelrod, President Obama’s former chief strategist, told the Washington Post. “There are also burdens that come from these franchises. You’re not a brand-new car. Even if someone else put the dings in it, you’re still driving it.”

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