For much of the fall, the Amateur Duo of Donald Trump and Ben Carson appeared to have a lock on the top two slots in Republican presidential polling. A new CNN poll suggests the race is entering a new phase.
1. Donald Trump: 36% (up from 27% in a CNN poll conducted in mid-October)
2. Ted Cruz: 16% (up from 4%)
3. Ben Carson: 14% (down from 22%)
4. Marco Rubio: 12% (up from 8%)
Believe it or not, no other candidate tops 5% in the poll, including Jeb Bush, who's down to just 3% nationally in this poll, trailing Chris Christie's 4%.
It may be tempting to look past the top of the poll, but it's worth pausing to appreciate that Trump's support appears to be growing -- his 36% showing is the strongest of any Republican presidential candidate in any CNN poll conducted this year. It's also more than double his next closest rival.
The network's report on the findings added, "The poll reflects Trump's dominance over the rest of the field on the issues voters deem most important to them. He holds massive margins over other Republicans as the candidate most trusted to handle the economy (at 55%, Trump stands 46 percentage points over his nearest competitor), the federal budget (51%, up 41 points), illegal immigration (48%, up 34 points), ISIS (46%, up 31 points) and foreign policy (30%, up 13 points). Looking at those Republicans who consider each issue to be 'extremely important' to their vote, Trump's standing on each issue is even stronger."
A whopping 52% of Republican voters now see Trump as the most electable candidate in the GOP field.
What's more, note that the top three candidates -- Trump, Cruz, and Carson -- are probably the three candidates the Republican establishment likes the least. And yet, combined, they now enjoy a whopping 66% of the national GOP vote. That's just stunning.
But I continue to believe that Cruz's rise is the under-appreciated story of the season. In October, CNN's poll showed the senator in sixth place, failing to even crack 5% support. Now, however, Cruz has seen his support quadruple, working his way into second place.
This week, a Quinnipiac poll showed the Texas Republican running a strong second in Iowa, while a PPP poll found Cruz also running second in New Hampshire.
Cruz and his backers have long believed that the senator is well positioned to get a boost if Carson falters, and with the retired doctor's support slipping, there's reason to believe Cruz is, in fact, the principal beneficiary.
The media hype surrounding Marco Rubio is not yet moving actual Republican voters into his camp.