A new poll of Republican voters released Wednesday found Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) vaulting past Donald Trump nationally.
In a clear break from other recent national polls, the Wall Street Journal/NBC survey showed Cruz, the Iowa caucuses winner, with 28% support among Republican primary voters.
Trump captured 26% in the poll. He was followed by Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Florida) 17% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s (R) 11%. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson garnered 10%, while former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) rounded out the field with 4%.
The pollster acknowledged that the survey represents a clear “shift” in standing between Trump and Cruz. All national surveys released over the past month have found Trump with a comfortable, usually double-digit lead over Cruz, his chief GOP primary rival. A Real Clear Politics average of five surveys released this month gives Trump an approximate 33% to 20% lead over Cruz among the GOP field.
“When you see a number this different, it means you might be right on top of a shift in the campaign. What you don’t know yet is if the change is going to take place or if it is a momentary ‘pause’ before the numbers snap back into place,” Republican pollster Bill McInturff said, according to NBC.
NBC suggested that last Saturday’s raucous Republican debate could have had a hand in the poll’s extreme shift, especially since it was conducted entirely after the debate. However, state surveys of South Carolina, which hosts its Republican primary on Saturday, have shown little erosion of Trump’s commanding lead in the days since the debate.
Over the last week, Trump and Cruz have increasingly traded blows on the campaign trail.
On Tuesday, the Trump campaign threatened to sue Cruz if the senator did not stop airing a television ad that includes a years-old clip of Trump stating his then-support for abortion rights. Cruz fired back, goading Trump to file his lawsuit and saying he would consider arguing in his own defence if the case went to trial.
“Even in the annals of frivolous lawsuits, this takes the cake,” Cruz said. “So Donald, I would encourage you — if you want to file a lawsuit challenging this ad, claiming it is defamation, file the lawsuit. It is a remarkable contention that an ad that plays video of Donald Trump speaking on national television is somehow defamation.”
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