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Latest polls show only one dominant GOP candidate

Trump can now boast he has more support than Cruz, Rubio, and Carson combined.
John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Rand Paul (Photo by Mark J. Terrill/AP)
Republican presidential candidates, from left, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Ben Carson, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and Rand Paul take the stage during the CNN Republican presidential debate at the Venetian Hotel & Casino on Dec. 15, 2015, in Las Vegas.
Since last week's debate for Republican presidential candidates, several independent polls have shown Donald Trump gaining strength and raising his ceiling to new heights. A new CNN poll adds fresh evidence to bolster the impression of Trump's total dominance as 2015 comes to a close.
1. Donald Trump: 39% (up from 36% in a CNN poll from late November)
2. Ted Cruz: 18% (up from 16%)
3. Ben Carson: 10% (down from 14%)
3. Marco Rubio: 10% (down from 12%)
5. Chris Christie: 5% (up from 4%)
Every other GOP contender is stuck below 5%, including Jeb Bush, who's now in seventh place with 3% support. As for Carly Fiorina, a CNN poll in September showed her in second place with 15% backing, while these new results show her collapsing to a woeful 1%.
But let's not look past the top of the heap too quickly. Trump's 39% is the strongest support any Republican has seen in any CNN poll this year, and his support is now greater than Cruz, Carson, and Rubio combined. It's also one of several polls showing the New York developer hovering around the 40% threshold: in post-debate surveys, Monmouth (41%), Washington Post/ABC News (38%), and Fox News (39%) each pointed in the same direction.
So much for the "he'll start to disappear after Labor Day" chatter.
Remember, no Republican candidate in the modern era has enjoyed this large a lead at this stage in the process and failed to win the GOP nomination. It's just never happened.
As for the rest of the top tier, Cruz continues to solidify his position as the #2 overall Republican candidate; Carson's decline towards irrelevance continues; and Christie increasingly appears to be taking Jeb Bush's place in the mainstream GOP's "lane."
Rubio, meanwhile, may remain the media darling, but this is the third major poll since last week's debate that shows the Florida senator's support going down, not up, following similar shifts in the Fox and Quinnipiac surveys.
As for why Trump is faring so well, consider these insights from the CNN report on its poll results:

Trump's standing in the race for the nomination is bolstered by widely held trust that he can best handle the top issues facing the nation. Trump holds massive advantages over the rest of the field as the candidate best able to handle the economy ... illegal immigration ... and ISIS. And Republicans are coming around to the idea that the Republican Party has its best shot at winning the presidency by nominating the New York real estate mogul. Overall, 46% of GOP voters say the Republicans have a better chance to win in 2016 with Trump as the party's nominee, while 50% say the GOP has a better shot with someone else at the top of the ticket. In August, just 38% said Trump brought the Republicans their best chances.

The education gap, meanwhile, continues to be enormous: among Republican voters with college degrees, Trump's support is at 27%, but among GOP voters without degrees, Trump's standing is 46%.