New CNN national poll: Trump up 21 points over Cruz at 39%

The final CNN poll of 2015 looks … a lot like the rest of the CNN polls in 2015. Donald Trump dominates the national polling among registered Republican voters, more than lapping Ted Cruz at 39/18, his nearest competitor. Only two others score in double digits:

Donald Trump seems set to end 2015 as the dominant force in the race for next year’s Republican nomination for president, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz now a clear — yet distant — second after a strong debate performance, a new CNN/ORC poll released on Wednesday has found.

Trump tops the field with 39%, according to the poll of Republican and Republican-leaning registered voters. That’s more than double the share backing Cruz, who, at 18%, has inched up 2 points since the last CNN/ORC poll, which was taken in late November.

Trump has been a constant atop the polls since his ascent to the lead in July, and this new poll marks the first time Cruz stands significantly apart from the other candidates vying for the nomination. Behind those two, Ben Carson and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio have each slipped a few points and now stand tied at 10%.

Here’s a fun fact from today’s polling:

It’s true, but it’s mainly irrelevant. Rand Paul gets 4%, sandwiched between Chris Christie’s 5% and Jeb Bush’s 3%. They are all within the margin of error (±4.5 points) of their previous CNN poll results — in fact, that’s true for everyone on the list. The order may have changed in the second tier, but not the results.

Of course, this primary result carries two caveats. First, it’s national polling, which is reaching the end of its usefulness. The Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary come in less than two months, which means we’re close enough to start screening for likely voters in state polling. That’s actually the second caveat as well — this is a poll of registered voters, not likely voters. That may not make too much difference when it comes to a large lead like Trump’s, but it does make some difference, and it would have a significant impact on the standing of the other candidates.

Maybe another question drills down to likely voters in another way. For those who watched both the undercard and main debate — in other words, committed (or maybe committable?) political junkies — Trump still leads, but only by five points over Cruz, 33/28, and with Rubio the only other candidate in double digits with 13%. Carson falls to 2% in this subsample (±6.5 points, though), tied with Paul and ahead of Bush at 1%. Christie comes in fourth at 6%.

On favorability among all respondents, though, Trump still has a widely negative rating of -18 (39/57), although it is his best showing in this series. He doesn’t come out worst, though; Bush has a -23 (34/57). In the second straight national poll, Cruz comes out on the positive side with a +6 (45/39), which means he’s growing on voters; his previous rating was a -8 at 27/35. Rubio still scores best in the GOP field with a +12 (46/34).

The man who may have the most to cheer from this poll is Ted Cruz, especially as that favorability improvement may impact the state races. Nevertheless, Trump and his supporters have plenty of reason to love this poll … and pretty much every other national poll this year.

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