- The Washington Times - Monday, November 9, 2015

Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and billionaire businessman Donald Trump are essentially tied atop the 2016 GOP field in a new poll that also found Mr. Carson to be the strongest general election candidate for Republicans and someone GOP voters are more inclined to like the more they hear about him.

Mr. Carson had 24 percent support among Republicans and GOP-leaning independents in the McClatchy-Marist poll out Monday, followed by Mr. Trump at 23 percent.

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida was next at 12 percent, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 8 percent apiece, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky at 5 percent, Ohio Gov. John Kasich at 4 percent, and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 3 percent each.

Thirty-one percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents thought Mr. Trump had the best chance of beating the Democratic nominee next November, which was tops in the field. Mr. Carson was next at 26 percent.

But when matched head-to-head with the top two Democratic candidates, Mr. Carson set up as the strongest general election candidate for Republicans. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, would beat Mr. Carson by 2 points, Mr. Rubio by 5 points, Mr. Bush by 8 points, Mr. Cruz and Mrs. Fiorina by 10 points, and Mr. Trump by 15 points.

Mr. Carson, meanwhile, led Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont by 2 points in a head-to-head match-up. But Mr. Sanders led Mr. Rubio by 3 points, Mr. Bush by 10 points, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump by 12 points, and Mrs. Fiorina by 14 points.

By a 67 percent to 20 percent margin, Republicans and GOP-leaning independents also said the more they hear about Mr. Carson, the more they like him, as opposed to dislike him.

Republican and GOP-leaning voters said the same of Mr. Rubio by a 58 percent to 27 percent margin and the same of Mr. Cruz by a 51 percent to 31 percent margin.

Meanwhile, 49 percent said as they learn more about Mr. Trump, they’re less inclined to like him, while 44 percent said the more they hear about Mr. Trump, the more they like him.

By a 58 percent to 32 percent margin, Republicans and GOP-leaning voters said the more they learn about Mr. Bush, the less they like him.

Thirty-seven percent of Republicans and leaners said they definitely don’t want Mr. Trump to win the GOP nomination — tops in the field — and 32 percent said the same of Mr. Bush.

The survey was conducted Oct. 29-Nov. 4, after the last GOP presidential debate on Oct. 28 in Colorado.

Mr. Trump, Mr. Carson, Mr. Rubio, Mr. Cruz, Mr. Bush, Mrs. Fiorina, Mr. Kasich and Mr. Paul will share the main stage at the fourth GOP debate, which takes place in Milwaukee on Tuesday at 9 p.m. eastern time.

Mr. Huckabee and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who both participated in the first three main prime-time debates, did not meet the polling threshold to qualify for the main stage Tuesday. They will share the stage with former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal in the earlier, “undercard” debate at 7 p.m. eastern time.

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