Bush and Walker Emerge as Front-Runners in GOP Primary

February 15, 2015 Updated: February 15, 2015

The dust has settled from Romney’s exit from the race, and now Jeb Bush and Scott Walker have emerged as the clear front-runners in the GOP primary.

Jeb Bush is currently the most popular Republican candidate in New Hampshire at 18 percent, and the second most popular in Iowa and South Carolina according to NBC News/Marist polls released Sunday. In each state, Walker trails Bush by a few points and one rank in popularity.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) polls first in his home state at 17 percent, and finishes dead last in both Iowa and New Hampshire, and Iowa favorite Mike Huckabee only polls at 7 percent in New Hampshire.

Only Bush and Walker finish with double-digit support in all three states.

The two have managed to survive the first round of attacks relatively unscathed. Bush had to deal with charges of high school bullying in January, and earlier this month had to quickly withdraw a cache of emails he has released from his time as governor in the name of transparency, after it was discovered that they contained the personal information, including Social Security numbers, of some of his constituents.

Scott Walker’s success is arguably more impressive, having been clobbered by the press for his ambivalence on the theory of evolution and his lack of a college degree. His continued governorship of Wisconsin will surely supply material for criticism, whereas Bush hasn’t held public office since 2007, and the lengthy amount of time since gives him room to disavow actions he made as governor of Florida.

Unlike Bush, Walker still faces a threat from the party’s right-wing.

Whereas Bush is unabashedly pro-immigration, Walker has given evasive answers on the issue, which remains a litmus test for many voters.

Around half of Republican voters in all three states said that a candidate who supports a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants was unacceptable to them.