Donald Trump reclaimed the top spot in USA Today's "Power Rankings"
of Republican presidential contenders, edging out last week's winner, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by a single point.
Here's the breakdown of candidates from the survey of about 30 political commentators; the number in parentheses was the candidate's prior-week standing:
- Trump (2)
- Cruz (1)
- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio (3)
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (4)
- Retired pediatric neurosurgeon Ben Carson (5)
- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (5)
- Former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina (8)
- Ohio Gov. John Kasich (7)
- Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (9)
- Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (10)
- Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum (12)
- Former New York Gov. George Pataki (13)
- Former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (14)
"Polls [are] confirming that Trump, [Florida Sen. Marco] Rubio and Cruz have broad and strong support," former Republican National Committee official Frank Donatelli tells USA Today, adding, however:
"There is still room for another candidate to emerge with a strong showing in New Hampshire. There is still much volatility in the electorate which will become evident when candidates begin to drop out after the first two or three contests."
According to USA Today, Trump had 17 votes for first-place; Cruz had 11, and Rubio, 3; Cruz scored more second-place votes. In the end, Trump outscored Cruz by a single point, USA Today reports.
GOP digital consultant Phil Musser notes the "teflon-like nature of the Trump candidacy," and comments to the newspaper the real estate billionaire "continues to defy traditional political norms. Look for massive crowds at his pre-Christmas events this week."
And GOP pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson believes "with more polls showing Cruz surging in Iowa, the question still remains how Trump will handle being second place in a contest and whether or not that damages Trump's 'I'm a winner' campaign."
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