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Ben Carson surges in new 2016 poll

Retired neurosurgeon and political commentator Ben Carson has surged to second place as he seriously considers a White House bid in 2016.
Ben Carson
Dr. Ben Carson, professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference annual meeting in National Harbor, Md., on March 8, 2014.

Hillary Clinton and Mitt Romney continue to lead the likely field of 2016 presidential contenders more than a year out from the first nominating contests, but there’s an unlikely new contender in the GOP race -- conservative firebrand Ben Carson.

The retired neurosurgeon and political commentator has surged to second place in a new CNN/ORC poll released Tuesday. At this stage of the nascent 2016 presidential race, any poll should be taken with a grain of salt, but the results put Carson ahead of more established prospective candidates, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

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Twenty percent of GOP-leaning respondents picked Romney as their top choice, suggesting that recent polls showing the 2012 Republican presidential nominee as a leader in the race are not anomalous.

But more surprising is that Carson finished in second, with 10% saying they would support him. Carson has indicated he is almost certainly going to mount a bid, despite having no political experience and a tendency to make highly controversial comments.  

Carson also looks strong in Iowa, which holds the first nominating contest. A recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll found Carson in second place in the critical state.

In CNN’s national poll, Carson only barely edges out Bush (9%), Christie (8%), and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (7%). Florida Sen. Marco Rubio underperforms much of the rest of the field -- including Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Paul Ryan -- receiving only 3% support.

On the Democratic side, Clinton maintains her strong lead in the field of prospective candidates, with 65% of Democratic-leaning respondents saying she would be their choice for party’s nomination in 2016 nomination, according to the CNN poll. Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren were far behind, with 10% and 9%, respectively, picking them as their first choice.

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Neither Democrat is likely to run, however, if Clinton jumps in the race. Next up was Vermont Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is seriously considering a run as a Democrat and has about 5% support.

The poll surveyed 1,045 Americans from Nov. 21-23, including 510 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, along with 457 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents.