With outsider candidate Donald Trump continuing to dominate the entire field of Republican presidential candidates going into the holiday season, many have proclaimed that he's destined to clinch the nomination this spring.
As of the second week of December, Trump is the top choice among more than 30 percent of voters — double the number of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Ben Carson, who all hover near 15 percent, according to an average of national polls recorded by Real Clear Politics.
A review of the last 10 Republican primaries reveals that in all but the last two contests, the candidate who led at Christmastime did, in fact, go on to win the nomination.
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For the most part, Republican primaries in recent decades have been relatively stable affairs with few upsets. Since 2008, however, the GOP contest has appeared much more chaotic, with John McCain surging from third to first, and Mitt Romney surging from second to first.
Gathered below is a review of the past 10 presidential elections, including a recap of who was winning the Republican primary fight around Christmas.
Note: * denotes the candidate who went on to secure the nomination.
— On Christmas Day 2011, the eventual Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, was trailing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in an average of national polling
. Earlier in the month, Herman Cain had dropped out, after having secured the front-runner position in October and November. Romney surged to more than 50 percent in the polls through the winter and spring, while Gingrich faltered, eventually finishing at second with 19 percent. Romney went on to lose the general election to President Barack Obama.
Newt Gingrich 27.8
*Mitt Romney 24.4
Rand Paul 12.6
Rick Perry 6.6
Michele Bachmann 6.4
Rick Santorum 3.6
— On Dec. 25, 2007, an average of national polling compiled by Real Clear Politics
showed the eventual Republican nominee, John McCain, in third place. As 2008 began, McCain and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee surged in the polls, while Giuliani began a downward drift. In the long run, McCain's surge would prove to be twice as strong as Huckabee's, allowing him to win the primaries, and secure the nomination. Then-Sen. Barack Obama, who defeated McCain in the general election, was also trailing his rival
, Hillary Clinton, on Christmas day. He was at 25 percent, while Hillary was at 43 percent.
Rudy Giuliani 20.8
Mike Huckabee 17.8
*John McCain 15.5
Mitt Romney 15.0
Fred Thompson 11.5
Rand Paul 4.0
— President George W. Bush ran virtually unopposed for the Republican nomination, and defeated Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the general election.
— Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush, son of former President George H. W. Bush, took an early lead in the primaries, and maintained it to win the Republican nomination. McCain had a late surge, but Bush fended him off, secured the nomination, and won the general election against Democratic Vice President Al Gore. A nationwide Gallup poll showed
the following numbers on Dec. 21, 1999:
*George W. Bush 60
John McCain 17
Steve Forbes 9
Alan Keyes 4
— Bob Dole was the early frontrunner in the Republican primary, and stayed on top throughout. After winning the GOP nomination, he lost the general election to Bill Clinton. Polling below is an average from January to June 1995.
*Bob Dole 50.3
Phil Gramm 11.4
Pat Buchanan 6.3
— President George H. W. Bush was challenged in the primaries, most notably by veteran White House advisor Pat Buchanan, but Bush stayed on top of the polls throughout the race, winning the Republican nomination but losing the general election to Democrat and then-Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton. Notably, independent candidate Ross Perot took nearly 20 percent of the general election vote. The numbers below come from an average of polling from July to December 1991, according to The New York Times
*George H. W. Bush 72.0
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Pat Buchanan 15.0
David Duke 3.5
— Vice President Bush led early in the polls from January to June 1987, and held on to that lead through Christmastime, securing the Republican nomination and going on to win the presidency. According to The Times, Bob Dole put up a serious fight — Bush lost to Dole in Iowa — but the VP held on to win the long game.
*George H. W. Bush 35.9
Bob Dole 20.7
Jack Kemp 7.4
Pat Robertson 4.3
Al Haig 4.2
Howard Baker 2.1
— President Ronald Reagan ran for his second term essentially unopposed in the primaries, and handily won re-election.
— Reagan led the primary race early in this election, and an average of polls conducted from January to June 1979 show he had a big lead. He remained on top, winning the Republican nomination and the general election. According to The New York Times, Reagan's "most vigorous challenge eventually came from George H.W. Bush, who had made little impression on voters early on but won the slot as Mr. Reagan’s vice presidential nominees for his efforts."
*Ronald Reagan 28.8
Gerald Ford 17.0
Howard Baker 9.6
John Connally 8.0
Charles Percy 1.0
Bob Dole 0.8
James R. Thompson 0.6
George H. W. Bush 0.6
— According to The New York Times, an average of polls conducted January through June of 1975 showed President Gerald Ford, who inherited the presidency when Nixon resigned, would go on to win the Republican nomination and the general election, remaining on top throughout the contest.
*Gerald Ford 38.3
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Ronald Reagan 19.7
Barry Goldwater 10.0
Nelson Rockefeller 6.7
Howard Baker 5.0
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