Poll: Trump leads GOP field by more than 2-1 margin nationally

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Donald TrumpDonald John Trump20 weeks out from midterms, Dems and GOP brace for surprises Sessions responds to Nazi comparisons: 'They were keeping the Jews from leaving' Kim Jong Un to visit Beijing this week MORE holds a more than 2-to-1 advantage over the next closest GOP presidential contender in a new national poll.

According to the Monmouth University survey released on Wednesday, Trump leads the race with 36 percent support nationally. That’s down from 41 percent in the same survey from December, which had marked the highest point he’s reached so far.

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcCain calls on Trump to rescind family separation policy: It's 'an affront to the decency of the American people' Cruz announces bill to end separation of immigrant families The Hill's 12:30 Report — Sponsored by Delta Air Lines — Furor grows over child separation policy MORE (R-Texas) is a distant second place, taking 17 percent support — a 3-point gain over December.

The rest of the field is largely unchanged, with Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioHillicon Valley: Supreme Court takes up Apple case | Senate votes to block ZTE deal | Officials testify on Clinton probe report | Russia's threat to undersea cables | Trump tells Pentagon to create 'space force' | FCC begins T-Mobile, Sprint deal review Feehery: Betting on Trump Senate votes to block Trump's ZTE deal MORE (R-Fla.) in third place at 11 percent support, followed by retired neurosurgeon Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonPress: Drain the swamp – of Scott Pruitt An ode to fathers Ben Carson walks back plan to triple rent for poor MORE at 8 percent and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 5 percent.

No other candidate takes more than 3 percent support.

“These results suggest that the GOP race is fairly static on a national level,” said Monmouth polling director Patrick Murray. “We’ll have to wait and see if the Iowa and New Hampshire results shake things up.”

Republicans view Trump as the strongest candidate to take on Hillary Clinton in the general election, with 37 percent saying he has the best shot at defeating the Democratic front-runner, versus 24 percent who said the same of Cruz. Thirty-one percent said the candidates would be equally strong against Clinton.

Trump trounces Rubio on the question of who would do better against Clinton, with 47 percent saying the billionaire businessman is a better general election candidate, versus only 22 percent who said that of Rubio. Only 25 percent said those two would be equally good candidates in a match-up against Clinton.


The poll did not ask about match-ups with Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, who has been gaining on Clinton nationally. He remains behind her by more than 11 points, as well as in Iowa, and has been widening his lead in New Hampshire.

“Contrary to many party leaders’ hopes, the electability argument is not going to drag down Trump,” said Murray.

A full 65 percent of Republicans said they believe Cruz, who was born in Canada, is a “natural born citizen” and eligible to serve as president. 

Still, 12 percent said he’s not and 24 percent said they’re unsure, meaning that more than one-third of GOP primary voters harbor some doubts.

Cruz was born to an American mother and Cuban father. Many scholars and legal experts believe that qualifies him to be president under the Constitution’s “natural born citizen” clause.

Trump has sought to make an issue out of Cruz’s Canadian birthplace, but at the last GOP debate Cruz sought to turn the tables by pointing out that Trump’s mother was born in Scotland.

According to the Monmouth survey, 91 percent of Republicans believe Trump is a natural born citizen.

The best news for a low-polling candidate in the survey belongs to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Christie only takes 3 percent support, but he’s managed to turn a negative favorability rating into a positive one. Forty-two of Republicans now view Christie favorably, compared to 33 percent who have a negative view of him.

Bush once again logged the worst favorability rating in the field, at 32 percent positive and 47 percent negative.

The Monmouth University survey of 385 registered Republican voters was conducted between Jan. 15 and Jan. 18 and has a 5-percentage-point margin of error.