Donald Trump is heading into the Republican presidential primary voting process with a commanding lead nationally and in the first three voting states.
New NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist College surveys released Thursday gave Trump a 7-point lead in Iowa, which holds the first caucus next Monday; a 19-point advantage in New Hampshire, where the first primary takes place on February 9; and a 16-point lead in South Carolina.
In each case, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who has become Trump’s top rival in the GOP field, placed in second.
“Trump is positioned to run the house in these first three states. His supporters are committed and plan to turn out,” said Lee Miringoff, the director of The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion, in a statement. “Will it happen? The answer depends on when or if anti-Trump sentiment will coalesce to interrupt his march to the nomination.”
Trump has long held large leads in New Hampshire and South Carolina, but a victory in Iowa had been threatened by Cruz’s rise there over the past month. But the 7-point lead there is part of a trend for Trump, who has led in seven of the last eight public surveys of the state and by an average of 6 points.
For Trump, the 32% to 25% lead in the Hawkeye State was a reversal from earlier this month, when he trailed Cruz 28% to 24% in the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey.
Trump has also held a commanding lead nationally in recent surveys. In a CNN/ORC poll published earlier this week, he more-than doubled Cruz’s share.
In each of the three states, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) came in third. Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) tied Rubio for third in New Hampshire.
Republican candidates are set to square off Thursday night in the final debate before the Iowa caucus. But the debate will apparently take place without Trump, who is boycotting the event as part of a longstanding feud with host-network Fox News and moderator Megyn Kelly.
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