As the Republican presidential candidates prepare to face the next televised debate tonight, Donald Trump's lead over the other GOP hopefuls to its greatest extent so far. According to a new national  survey, Trump now has 38 percent support from registered Republicans and independent voters who lean towards the GOP. Released today, the Washington Post-ABC News poll also found Ted Cruz moved into second place, with 15 percent, which is twice the level of support he had in November. Bringing up the rear are Marco Rubio and Ben Carson with 12 percent support each. Retired neurosurgeon Carson saw his support drop by half over the past month. In last place, Jeb Bush received 5 percent support among registered Republicans.
 
Of issues facing Americans, the poll found that terrorism replaced employment and the economy as the top concern by 24 percent of likely Republican caucus participants as of November 24. 
 
The Washington Post-ABC poll determined that if Trump were to face off with Hillary Clinton in November 2016, he would trail her by 50 percent to 44 percent among registered voters. The poll found that 29 percent of Americans say that they would feel comfortable with Trump as president, versus 47 percent who would feel comfortable with Clinton.
 
The Washington Post pointed out "national polls are not always the reliable predictors of where presidential nominating contests are heading." In 2008, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was tied with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at this point, while in December 2007, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani and Clinton were at the top of the polls. However, neither one gained the prize.
 
 On December 14, a poll conducted by Monmouth University found similar numbers for Trump. In that survey, his numbers swelled by 13 percentage points since October to the current level of 41 percent of GOP voters. Ted Cruz came in second in that poll, too.
 
Also, a Quinnipiac University poll showed Trump with 28 percent and Cruz with 27 percent among Iowa Republican caucus participants. This puts them at twice the level for Rubio who came in third place with 14 percent. Carson was the caboose at 10 percent. The other GOP candidates did not breach the 5 percent level.
 
In the Quinnipiac poll, 3 percent say they are undecided, but 53 percent of those who name a candidate say they might change their allegiance. Of GOP caucus participants, 30 percent say they  definitely would not support Trump, while  23 percent who would not support Bush. "The tie at the top of the Iowa Republican Caucus reflects a change in priorities among voters. The last time Quinnipiac University polled, the economy was the top issue. Now it is terrorism, a subject on which Donald Trump gets the highest rating of any of the candidates," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. Voting is now just 50 days away.
 
Of the many issues facing the nation, terrorism was singled out as the most important for 30 percent of likely Republican caucus participants. For 21 percent is the economy and employment, and 13 percent say it is foreign policy, while 11 percent cite immigration. 

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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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