Lisa Hagen, The Hill, December 24, 2015
Donald Trump may be getting the best gift of all this holiday season, as he enters 2016 firmly on top in the Republican race for the White House.
The GOP presidential hopeful has proved the doubters wrong, solidifying a double-digit lead in national polls while running one of the most unorthodox campaigns in history.
The latest national polls confirm that Trump’s momentum isn’t slowing down. Within the past week, the real estate mogul:
• topped the field in a post-debate survey from Public Policy Polling, increasing his lead by 8 points;
• bested the second-place finisher by 4 points in a Quinnipiac University poll;
• and opened up a 21-point lead in a CNN/ORC International poll.
The poll numbers highlight how Trump has displaced President Obama as the central player on the political stage, with both parties reacting daily to his insults, tweets and attack lines.
His dominance is something few political observers would have predicted back on Jun. 15, when he entered the presidential race with a rambling launch speech that some people were allegedly paid to attend.
But Trump quickly gained momentum during the summer, with tens of thousands of people flocking to his rallies to hear how he planned to “make America great again” by deporting illegal immigrants and taking on China.
Conventional wisdom held that the political storms generated by Trump–most recently from his call to temporarily ban most Muslims from entering the United States–would be fatal to his candidacy.
Yet six months after his entry in the race, Trump sits atop national polls with 35.1 percent support, according to the latest RealClearPolitics average.
Still, there are signs that Trump’s closest GOP rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), is gaining ground.
Cruz even leads Trump in Iowa, which will hold the first presidential contest of the year, on Feb. 1. A RealClearPolitics average of Iowa GOP polls shows Cruz narrowly edging out Trump by 4 percentage points in the caucus state.
Craig Robinson, a former political director for the Iowa GOP, said Trump has the ability to turn out the tens of thousands needed to win the caucuses. That grassroots fervor could be tough for Cruz to compete with, he said.
“Voting for Trump is going to be a protest vote just like Ron Paul,” Robinson said.
“Trump could completely underperform or overperform,” he continued. “I don’t know if Cruz has anything in their arsenal that can deal with the Trump campaign that is bringing new people to the process.”