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Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would enter the 2016 presidential race in an exceptionally strong position among fellow Democrats since a majority of voters say she has the needed experience, a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll shows.
The survey, conducted as Clinton promotes her new book and mulls another White House run, makes clear how formidable she would be in a Democratic nomination race. Eight in 10 Democrats rate her highly for being "compassionate enough to understand average people"—a sign of the difficulty facing any Democratic foe seeking to challenge her from the left.
Around eight in 10 also rate her highly for "being effective and getting things done," and for sharing their positions on the issues. Large majorities of Democrats credit Clinton for "being easygoing and likable" and "having high personal standards."
Most important for her general election prospects is the judgment of 55 percent of all voters that Clinton—after her years as first lady and U.S. senator as well as America's top diplomat—is "knowledgable and experienced enough to handle the presidency." Republican pollster Bill McInturff, who conducts the NBC/WSJ survey with Democratic counterpart Peter Hart, said that represents a valuable threshold for any presidential contender to cross.
Discomfort with the prospect of having the first woman president has eased slightly since her first campaign in 2008. Just 18 percent report having "some reservations" or being "very uncomfortable", down from 23 percent who said so in March 2007.
The flip side of Clinton's long career on the national stage is that it has left her with political baggage as well. Just 38 percent of all voters rate her highly for "being honest and straightforward." Some 37 percent said there's "no chance" they would vote for her; 38 percent say they probably or almost certainly would, while 23 percent say she'd have "just some chance" to get their votes,
The telephone survey of 1,000 adults, conducted June 11-15, carries a margin for error of 3.1 percentage points. Full results will be at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday.
—By CNBC's John Harwood.