Washington: Defying gravity and flummoxing pundits and pollsters alike, Donald Trump has become the first Republican presidential candidate to top 30 percent support for the party nomination, according to a new poll.
A new CNN/ORC Poll released Thursday found the real estate mogul pulling well away from the rest of the crowded field of 17 Republicans, including establishment favourite Jeb Bush, son of a former president and brother of another.
Despite a dust up with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly during the first presidential debate and other outlandish comments that pundits said would spell the end of the Trump candidacy, he gained 8 points since August to land at 32 percent support.
Trump has nearly tripled his support since just after he launched his campaign in June, according to the CNN poll.
Bush, on the other hand, has fallen to the third place with 9 percent, down 4 points since August, behind neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 19 percent, a rise of ten points.
Together, these two non-politicians now hold the support of a majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, and separately, both are significantly ahead of all other competitors, the poll found.
Trump's gains come most notably among two groups that had proven challenging for him in the early stages of his campaign -- women and those with college degrees.
While he gained just four points among men in the last month (from 27 percent in August to 31 percent now), he's up 13 points among women, rising from 20 percent in August to 33 percent now.
Trump has also catapulted ahead of the rest of the field among Republicans who back the tea party movement, from 27 percent support in August to 41 percent now.
Among that group in the new poll, Carson follows with 21 percent, and Ted Cruz, another candidate with an anti-Washington message, holds third with 11 percent. No other candidate tops 5 percent among tea partiers.
Most Republican voters (51 percent) now think Trump is most likely to emerge as the Republican winner, well ahead of the 19 percent who think Bush will top the party ticket and 11 percent who think Carson will.
From the "outsider" contingent, former HP CEO Carly Fiorina hasn't built on her post-debate rise with the new CNN/ORC poll showing she has just three percent support.
In a "Rolling Stone" profile, Trump took a jab at Fiorina's appearance saying: "Look at that face!. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?"
Asked for her reaction to Trump's remarks by Kelly on Fox News Wednesday night, Fiorina said: "Maybe, just maybe, I'm getting under his skin a little bit, because I am climbing in the polls."
As the latest CNN/ORC poll was conducted September 4-8, it's hard to say how Trump's comments about Fiorina would affect his numbers, but if the past is any indication, he would still rise and rise.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)