Longtime friends and political allies Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio have broken away from the large pack of Republicans seeking the White House, with the two Sunshine State politicians garnering the support of three-quarters of GOP primary voters saying they could see themselves supporting one of the men, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll
The figure — 75 percent for Bush; 74 percent for Rubio — represents a wide swath of Republicans, ranging from those who identify as liberals to gun-rights advocates, the Journal reports.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is the next closest, with the support of 65 percent of GOP primary voters, but after him the rest of the pool of candidates drops significantly.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received 57 percent support. According to CNN
, Walker is an "unknown quantity to many GOP voters," with 21 percent of primary voters polled saying they do not know his name.
Bush, a former two-term Florida governor, and Rubio, the state’s junior U.S. senator, appear to be connecting with various factions of the GOP, including social conservatives, guns-rights enthusiasts, self-described conservatives and those who identify as moderates or liberals, according to the Journal.
At 22 percent, Bush also comes out on top as the candidate Republican primary voters would pick for the nomination, followed by Walker with 17 percent, Rubio with 14 percent and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 11 percent support.
Bush’s numbers have risen by 26 points since March, according to the Journal, and five points since April.
Though his campaign is off to a sluggish start in Iowa
— last week he tied for fifth in the Hawkeye State, which holds the nation’s first caucus — he has "conducted a problem-free trip through European nations on the front lines of tensions with Russia," according to the Journal, and has taken a strong stand in favor of removing the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina capitol, The Miami Herald
The flag has become a litmus test of sorts for some voters.
"My position on how to address the Confederate flag is clear," Bush said following the racially motivated killings of nine people in a historic AME church in Charleston, South Carolina.
"In Florida, we acted, moving the flag from the state grounds to a museum where it belonged.
"This is obviously a very sensitive time in South Carolina and our prayers are with the families, the AME church community and the entire state," he said. "Following a period of mourning, there will rightly be a discussion among leaders in the state about how South Carolina should move forward, and I’m confident they will do the right thing."
Rubio was more vague about his stance on the issue, the Herald reports, saying the decision should be left to the citizens of South Carolina.
"The next president of the United States will not make that decision," he said. "That’s up for the people of South Carolina to make, and I think they’ll make the right one like they’ve made them in the past."
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