New U.S. political surveys show billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump has gained strength in his race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in the days after he called for a temporary ban on Muslims entering the United States.
A Washington Post/ABC poll released Tuesday said the flamboyant Trump, with 38 percent support among Republican voters, has his biggest lead yet in the party's crowded presidential field, seven weeks ahead of the first of the party's state-by-state nominating contests. That came a day after Monmouth University's national poll showed the 69-year-old political novice with 41 percent support among Republicans.
With Muslim attackers killing 130 people in Paris and 14 at a government center in San Bernardino, California, Trump's proposed ban on Muslims entering the U.S. has drawn wide support among Republican voters, the surveys indicated. His Republican opponents, Democrats, the White House and world leaders have all condemned the proposal as un-American and as a tool Islamic State militants could use to recruit more fighters.
Trump's gain comes as he and eight other Republican presidential contenders are set to spar late Tuesday in Las Vegas, Nevada, in their last 2015 debate.
The first nominating contest is set for February 1 in the farm state of Iowa, followed quickly by voting in other states. Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton remains the commanding leader in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Both the Post/ABC and Monmouth polls show Trump with a significant lead over Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a conservative firebrand who has cast himself as an agitator against the Washington status quo, rebuking Republican and Democratic leaders alike. The Post/ABC poll showed 15 percent support for Cruz, a point more than Monmouth did.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio and former neurosurgeon Ben Carson, another political newcomer, trailed Trump and Cruz, with the rest of the Republican field even further back, the surveys showed.
Sentiment in U.S. political surveys in the months ahead of actual voting can show results that have no relation to the eventual party nominee, as voters begin to pay more attention to the positions and personalities of the candidates rather than just name recognition.
But Trump has led the Republican pack for months, even as a sizable portion of U.S. voters say they do not consider the one-time reality television show host to be a credible choice to replace President Barack Obama when he leaves office in January 2017.
Trump on Monday released a statement from his personal physician who said the candidate is in excellent health and that he neither smokes nor drinks alcoholic beverages.
"If elected, Mr. Trump, I can state unequivocally, will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency," said Dr. Harold Bornstein.