Poll: Trump Leads GOP Pack; Rubio, Cruz Gain Steam

Poll: Trump Leads GOP Pack; Rubio, Cruz Gain Steam
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With just two months until voters start weighing in on the presidential race, Donald Trump continues to lead the GOP field, picking up support despite his controversial comments and a renewed national focus on security and foreign policy that many said would slow his momentum. 

At the same time, however, freshmen Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are also gaining steam, while retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson is slipping.  

A Quinnipiac University poll of Republican voters nationwide, released Wednesday, finds Trump leading the pack with 27 percent of the support, up from 24 percent last month. Rubio comes in second with 17 percent, up 3 points from November. Cruz has gained 3 points, garnering 16 percent of the support and tying Carson, who lost 7 points over the past month.

The four candidates make up the top tier of GOP candidates, according to the poll. Jeb Bush received 5 percent of the support, Carly Fiorina earned 3 percent, and Chris Christie and John Kasich each garnered 2 percent. The remaining candidates received 1 percent or less. 

Cruz appears to have benefited from Carson's decline. The Texas senator ties Trump among self-identified Tea Party and evangelical voters and leads the pack among "very conservative" voters.

The terrorist attacks in Paris last month shifted the focus of the presidential race to foreign policy and national security. Among GOP voters for whom terrorism is the most important issue, Trump leads with 29 percent, followed by Carson with 19 percent and Rubio with 18 percent. Among voters who say foreign policy is most important, Rubio leads with 22 percent, followed by Trump and Cruz at 19 percent. 

The race, however, is still fluid: 65 percent say they might change their minds while 32 percent say their minds are made up. Among Trump supporters, however, 46 percent say they've made up their minds, while 53 percent say they could change. Among Rubio supporters, 23 percent are decided, and among Cruz supporters, 33 percent are decided. Twenty-six percent of Carson supporters have their minds made up.

Still, 26 percent of GOP voters say they would definitely not support Trump, the highest percentage in the field. Bush comes next, with 21 percent saying they would definitely not support him. Just 6 percent say the same for Cruz and 5 percent for Rubio, the lowest in the field.

Rubio also earns the highest favorability marks of the candidates: 66 percent view him favorably, while 8 percent view him unfavorably. Cruz's favorability/unfavorability rating is 65 percent to 9 percent, while Carson's is 67 percent to 13 percent and Trump's is 64 percent to 27 percent.

In hypothetical head-to-head match-ups, Hillary Clinton leads Trump, Carson, and Cruz, but edges Rubio by just 1 percentage point--a statistical tie.

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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