Poll: 61 percent concerned about Trump's experience

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Harry Reid on Donald Trump: 'He's the worst'

Donald Trump has highlighted his credentials as an outsider throughout his 2016 campaign, but six-in-ten American voters say they're unsure about his lack of military or government experience, a new NBC News/ Wall Street Journal poll shows.

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And more than 40 percent say they're very uncomfortable about the holes in his resume, which would make him the first president without a record of military or elected public service.

Asked in the new survey about Trump's experience, only five percent of registered voters said they were enthusiastic about his unconventional professional history, while another 15 percent said they were comfortable with it.

But a combined 61 percent say they have reservations (19 percent) or are outright uncomfortable (42 percent) with Trump's lack of experience in the kinds of positions traditionally held by American commanders-in-chief.

To put that number in context: A lower total percentage of voters - 51 percent - expressed concern about Bernie Sanders potentially becoming the first self-described Democratic socialist to lead the country.

Those who expressed concern about Trump's lack of military or government experience included 68 percent of women, 60 percent of independents, 78 percent of undecided voters and about a third of Republican primary voters.

Voters' anxiety about Trump's atypical background could be a factor considered by the Republican presumptive nominee as he weighs potential running mates. Trump has said that he intends to pick a partner on the GOP ticket with experience working in government.

Trump's business-heavy resume is hardly an unmitigated source of weakness, however. The billionaire real estate mogul vastly outperforms likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton when it comes to questions about his fitness to handle banking, the economy and shaking up the status quo in the nation's capital.

Asked which of the two candidates would be the best for dealing with Wall Street, 48 percent of voters selected Trump compared to just 27 percent for Clinton. On dealing with the economy, Trump trumped his competitor 47 percent to 36 percent. And, asked which candidate would be the best to "change business as usual in Washington," respondents gave Trump more than a 30 point advantage over the former secretary of state, 55 percent to 22 percent.

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Poll: 61 percent concerned about Trump's experience

Plan A: Chris Christie

Though often now seen in the billionaire's shadow and as the butt of jokes, Christie is a serious contender for the No. 2 spot on Trump's ticket. The brash Republican governor took a big risk endorsing Trump long before he became the presumptive nominee, and was one of the earliest and biggest establishment Republicans to do so. The two men have a friendship going back years, and both are known for an attack-dog style of leadership. The billionaire places a high premium on the loyalty of his surrogates and, together, the two political pugilists would be a formidable pair.

REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz/File Photo

Plan B: John Kasich

An arguably bigger get for Trump would be perennial thorn-in-side candidate John Kasich. Though functionally vanquished from contention months before he dropped out, the Ohio governor did win his own state primary convincingly and could prove critical for Trump to compete there. This would be especially true if Clinton opts for the state's senior senator Sherrod Brown as her pick (see Democrats, Plan A). 

As a happy warrior who eschewed much of the campaign's uglier moments, the jovial Ohio governor would go a long way toward "professionalizing" the Trump brand and putting establishment nerves at ease. Unfortunately, the governor has signaled he is not interested — for now.

REUTERS/Aaron Josefczyk

Dark Horse: Jim Webb

Now, if you're thinking, "Hey wait a minute, didn't that guy run for president as a Democrat?" the answer is yes, but the campaign was so ephemeral that you'd be forgiven for not noticing. Though he's nominally a Democrat, Webb's hawkish foreign policy and tough domestic stances put him painfully out of sync with the modern Democratic party. After flirting with a vengeful third-party run, Webb went on record to say he would not vote for Clinton and was open to voting Trump. Like Trump, Webb is passionate on veterans' issues and, as a former Virginia senator, could help the billionaire compete in that state. Nominating the crotchety ex-Democrat would position Trump well to not only shore up his white male voting blocs, but potentially also draw in moderates looking for bipartisan bonhomie.

REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

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Clinton, on the other hand, bested Trump on issues of fostering leadership at home and abroad.

More than half - 56 percent - chose Clinton as the better candidate to handle foreign policy, compared to just 29 percent who picked Trump. Clinton enjoyed a 10 point advantage over Trump on the question of who would make a better commander-in-chief, garnering 43 percent to Trump's 33 percent.

Clinton's biggest advantage, though, appears to be related to a voting bloc that could determine the outcome of the 2016 election: Women.

Sixty-three percent of all respondents (including similar share - 62 percent - of female voters) said that Clinton would be a better handler of issues of concern to women, while only 16 percent of voters said the same of Trump.

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