Provocative billionaire Donald Trump is the dominant Republican candidate heading into the 2016 presidential election year, after a poll released Wednesday gave him double the support of his nearest competitor.
The real estate magnate's campaign trail bombast -- including extraordinary comments that have stunned many observers -- appears to have done him little if any harm in the polls and he solidifies the frontrunner status he has maintained since late July.
A new national CNN/ORC poll of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters has Trump leading with 39 percent support, more than twice that of his nearest competitor Senator Ted Cruz on 18 percent, a two-point gain since the companies' last poll in November.
Senator Marco Rubio and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson have both slipped slightly and sit at 10 percent, while New Jersey Governor Chris Christie came in fifth at five percent. None of the other eight Republican candidates is above four percent.
The poll, with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points, was conducted in the aftermath of the latest Republican primary debate, in which Trump and Cruz were seen as performing well, and comes six weeks before the first votes in the nominating process are cast in Iowa.
The latest figures put Trump at 35.1 percent support in the much followed RealClearPolitics.com polling average, his highest mark yet.
Cruz is at 18.1 percent in the average, solidifying his second place position over Rubio.
Trump has issued a series of provocative -- some would say outrageous -- statements since launching his campaign June 16, beginning with his accusation that Mexico was sending ‘rapists’ and other criminals into the United States.
The latest controversies over Trump talk involve his December 7 call to bar Muslims from entering the United States, and vulgar verbal attacks Monday on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
But the national trend continues to tilt his way.
While four out of five Democrats oppose his proposed Muslim ban, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday, 41 percent of Republicans back it.
Seventy-four percent of Democrats said they would accept Syrian refugees while 82 percent of Republicans would not, according to the poll.
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