Donald Trump has now taken a commanding lead in the national race for the Republican Party presidential nomination according to a new poll released today from CNN/ORC. The poll gives Trump a 20 point lead over his closest competitor, Ted Cruz. Trump’s 36 percent support in the CNN poll is the highest number any Republican has achieved nationally since the 2016 presidential race began.
According to the poll Trump leads the Republican field nationally with 36 percent of the Republican primary vote. Trump stands alone in the top tier of the Republican candidates, with his support more than doubling any of the second tier candidates. Behind Trump in second tier are Ted Cruz with 16 percent, Ben Carson with 14 percent, and Marco Rubio with 12 percent. The third tier of candidates who continue to struggle gaining any traction in Trump’s wake are Chris Christie with 4 percent support, Jeb Bush with 3 percent, and Carly Fiorina with 3 percent. All other candidates are polling at 2 percent support or below.
The CNN/ORC poll was conducted from November 27-December 1. The sample includes 1,020 adult Americans nationwide. The Republican primary portion of the poll included 445 registered Rebublicans and has a margin-of-error of +/-4.5 percentage points. The sample included both landline and cell phone respondents.
Analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight gives CNN/ORC an A- rating in his ranking of pollsters based on partially on CNN/ORC’s performance over 72 released surveys. In his review of pollsters in the 2012 presidential race Silver gave CNN/ORC an above average rating. According to Silver, in 2012 the CNN/ORC polls had an average error of 1.8 points, and slightly favored Republican candidates by 0.6 points.
The poll matches up well with other polls that show Trump regaining momentum and taking hold of a dominant lead nationally among the Republicans. Two days ago a poll released by Quinnipiac University showed Trump leading all Republican candidates with 27 percent support. The Quinnipiac poll was conducted before the CNN/ORC poll, so if the two polls are accurate Trump’s lead has only grown since the Paris terror attacks. Both polls have Ben Carson fading, and Trump picking up much of Carson’s support.
A Real Clear Politics average of four polls released over the last three weeks has Trump leading the Republican field with the support of 30.8 percent of Republican voters. The closest competitor to Trump is Carson with 17.5 percent. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are both tied with 13.5 percent support. According to all all four polls Trump is undoubtedly in the lead, with Carson, Cruz, and Rubio in the second tier, and all other candidates in the third tier failing to get over 5 percent support.
Contrary to the predictions of many, Trump has only strengthened his lead following the terror attacks in Paris, and now Trump seems to have done away with the temporary threat that Ben Carson represented. Trump has successfully branded himself as the outsider candidate and has has also benefited by a great deal of free media as networks gain a rating boost from covering his more controversial comments.
What remains to be seen is what will happen if and when some of the third tier candidates drop out. There is the potential for candidates like Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to gain support from those who are looking for an alternative to Trump once candidates like Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and potentially even Jeb Bush drop out.
However, Trump also has the opportunity to gain support if Ben Carson continues to fade in the polls. In addition, if Trump is able to win both Iowa and New Hampshire he may benefit from the bandwagon effect, giving him the momentum of a political train which cannot be stopped even in the face of strong opposition from the establishment.
Finally, as a note of caution in modern politics two months is really forever, and much can change between now and Iowa. Still, the Republican establishment is at least beginning to come to grips with the possibility of a Donald Trump presidential nomination.