CHARLESTON, South Carolina — Donald Trump has more than doubled his national lead in the Republican presidential race ahead of Thursday night’s GOP debate here, according to the results from a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
Trump is the first choice of 33 percent of national Republican primary voters – his highest percentage in the poll. He’s followed by Ted Cruz at 20 percent, Marco Rubio at 13 percent and Ben Carson at 12 percent. Chris Christie and Jeb Bush are tied at 5 percent. No other Republican presidential candidate gets more than 3 percent.
Trump’s 13-point lead over Cruz is an increase of from last month, when he held a five-point advantage over the Texas senator, 27 percent to 22 percent.
Yet in a hypothetical one-on-one race between the two Republicans, Cruz tops Trump, 51 percent to 43 percent, while Trump beats Rubio in their one-on-one matchup, 52 percent to 45 percent.
In a three-way contest featuring the top three Republicans in the poll, Trump gets 40 percent, Cruz 31 percent and Rubio 26 percent, underscoring the overall strengthen out of the outsider/insurgent wing of the Republican Party.
Maybe the most striking finding in this NBC/WSJ poll is the growing GOP acceptance of Trump. Back in March, only 23 percent of Republican primary voters said they could see themselves supporting the real-estate mogul. Now that number stands at 65 percent.
The Republican candidates with the highest percentages on this question are Cruz (at 71 percent, up from 40 percent in March) and Rubio (at 67 percent, up from 56 percent 10 months ago).
By contrast, only 42 percent of Republicans say that they can see themselves supporting Jeb Bush, which is down from 75 percent in June.
Sixty percent of GOP primary voters say they can see themselves backing Carson – down from 77 percent in the late Oct. 2015 NBC/WSJ poll, when he was leading the Republican field.
The NBC/WSJ poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies (a Republican polling firm) and Hart Research Associates (a Democratic firm) from Jan. 9-13. The margin of error for the responses among the 400 Republican primary voters is plus-minus 4.9 percentage points.