Poll: Clinton has best chance if Trump runs as independent
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Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGeorge HW Bush wears 'book socks' to Barbara Bush's funeral to honor her passion for literacy Obamas, Clintons to attend funeral of Barbara Bush Hillary Clinton to fundraise in DC for public charter high school MORE is leading several top GOP candidates in hypothetical general election match-ups, but she narrowly trails Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioStudents gather outside White House after walkout to protest gun violence Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Senate confirms Trump’s pick to lead NASA MORE (R-Fla.), a new national poll finds. 

A new Public Policy Polling survey found that Clinton bests Republican presidential front-runner Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpFlynn to campaign for Montana GOP Senate candidate Trump considering pardon for boxing legend after call from Sylvester Stallone Decline in EPA enforcement won't keep climate bill from coming MORE, 46 percent to 43 percent; beats former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, 44 percent to 39 percent; and defeats Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz's Dem challenger slams Time piece praising Trump Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules MORE (R-Texas), 45 percent to 43 percent. Clinton ties retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson at 45 percent. 

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But Clinton falls behind Rubio in a close match-up, trailing him by 1 point. 

“Our polling — both nationally and in swing states — is pointing to a close general election for President next year,” Dean Debnam, president of the liberal leaning Public Policy Polling, said in a release.

“A lot of Democrats assume that if the Republicans nominate Cruz or Trump it will be an easy victory but they should be careful about overconfidence — Hillary Clinton finds herself in a tight race even against that pair.” 

If Trump decides to break his pledge to remain with the GOP and launches a third party run, the real estate mogul complicates the path to victory even more for Republicans. The poll shows that Trump receives 24 percent if he runs as an independent, boosting Clinton past Rubio, 41 percent to 27 percent. 

Trump also gets 23 percent in a three-candidate match-up with Clinton and Cruz, with the former secretary of State now leading the Texas senator, 42 percent to 26 percent.

The poll was conducted from Dec. 16 to 17 and surveyed 1,267 registered voters via phones and Internet. The margin of error was 2.8 percentage points.