Billionaire businessman Donald Trump has strengthened his lead at the top of the USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll while two other outsider candidates, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina, have gained ground over rivals with electoral experience.
Jeb Bush, who was second to Trump two months ago in the USA TODAY survey, has tumbled to single digits and fifth place. The third-place finisher last time, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, suspended his campaign this month.
The shifting landscape underscores an electorate that is fed up with politics-as-usual and willing to embrace contenders who promise to shake things up. Some presidential hopefuls with significant political experience — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham among them — have failed to gain traction and score at 1% or below, a standing that may make it harder for them to raise money and command a spot on stage in televised debates.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has risen to fourth place, backed by 9% of those surveyed.
The poll of 380 likely Republican primary voters, taken Thursday through Monday, has a margin of error of +/- 5 percentage points. The full sample of 1,000 likely voters has an error margin of +/-3 points.
Some political analysts, including those in the latest USA TODAY GOP Power Rankings, see Trump as beginning to lose ground while scrutiny on him as a potential president intensifies. Still, he continues to lead the field at 23%, up 6 points from the survey in July. Carson, a retired neurosurgeon, and Fiorina, an ex-CEO, tie for second at 13%, both big jumps from the last poll. That means about half of the GOP electorate back candidates who have never served in elective office.
No other candidate breaks into double digits. Rubio is at 9%, Bush at 8%, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz at 6% and Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 2%. Not a single respondent backs former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum or former New York governor George Pataki.
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