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Poll: Many Americans want fresh political faces

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attends a Long Island Association luncheon in Woodbury, N.Y.
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Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush attends a Long Island Association luncheon in Woodbury, N.Y.

Jeb Bush and Hillary Rodham Clinton approach the 2016 presidential campaign with the same fundamental problem: American voters think both represent the past rather than the future.

Those conclusions emerge from the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Fully 59 percent of Americans say 2016 is a time "to look for a person who will bring greater changes from current policies." Just 38 percent say the country needs "a more experienced and tested person even if it means fewer changes."

Unfortunately for Clinton, a 51 percent majority of respondents says the former secretary of state "would represent too much of a return to the policies of the past; 44 percent say she'd "provide the new ideas and vision the country will need."

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The numbers for Bush are worse: 60 percent tie the former Florida governor to "policies of the past," while just 27 percent credit him with "new ideas and vision."

Overall, Bush's problem is worse because his standing within his own party is so much weaker. Forty-nine percent of Republican primary voters say they could see themselves supporting him for the GOP nomination, while a daunting 42 percent say they could not.

By contrast, 86 percent of Democratic primary voters say they could envision supporting Clinton for the party's nomination. Just 13 percent say they could not.

The public desire for change reflects the continuing sense of discontent and pessimism about the nation's politics, even as the economy improves. By 60 percent to 32 percent, Americans call the nation "off on the wrong track" rather than "headed in the right direction." More Americans disapprove President Barack Obama's handling of job (50 percent) than approve (46 percent).

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Bush, the son of one former president and the brother of another, boasts formidable advantages nonetheless. He is the favorite of many party leaders and fundraisers, and is likely to have the largest war chest should he conclude his period of exploration and formally enter the race.

But some Republican rivals, also not formally declared candidates, begin with greater ability to tap the public mood. A 56 percent majority of Republican primary voters could envision themselves supporting Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, while just 26 percentcould not; for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, those numbers are 53 percent and 17 percent. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee also outpaces Bush with a 52 percent to 40 percent showing.

More comparable to Bush at this early phase of the campaign are Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, whom 49 percent could envision supporting while 40 percent could not, and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, 45 percent and 40 percent. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie fares worst of all the best-known Republican possibilities; 32 percent could envision supporting him, while 57 percent could not.

Democratic primary voters appear open to two alternatives to Clinton, though hardly at the near-universal comfort level she enjoys within the party. A 54 percent majority of Democrats say they could see supporting Vice President Joe Biden for the party's nomination, while 40 percent could not. Some 51 percent could envision supporting Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, while just 17 percent could not.

The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted by telephone March 1-5, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points.

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