New York billionaire Donald Trump still holds a commanding lead in the S.C. Republican presidential primary, but former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has risen to third, according to the state’s first poll of the year.
Trump received support from 32 percent of likely Republican primary voters, according to the poll taken after a debate on Thursday for Morris News Service and InsiderAdvantage, a Georgia political news site. The results were released by the Southern Political Report, a sister site of InsiderAdvantage.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas was second at 18 percent in the race for the Feb. 20 primary. He has been the second choice in South Carolina since November as non-establishment GOP candidates have dominated the top of polls in the Palmetto State. National GOP leaders are beginning to accept Trump or Cruz could be the nominee.
But the race is uncertain as a dozen Republican candidates remain active with the start of voting in a little more than two weeks in Iowa on Feb. 1. The New Hampshire primary follows on Feb. 9.
Bush placed third at 13 percent, his largest showing of support in South Carolina over the past 15 polls dating back to August, according to results compiled by Real Clear Politics. Bush placed fifth or sixth in all but one S.C. poll taken since late September.
He supplanted Marco Rubio of Florida, who came in fourth at 11 percent, and retired Maryland neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who was fifth at 9 percent. Rubio leads Bush in most national and early-primary state polls.
Polls conducted for Morris News Service and InsiderAdvantage have shown Bush with his best results in South Carolina since the summer.
His last three double-digit results going back to August came from surveys conducted for those news organizations by Atlanta-based Opinion Savvy, according to Real Clear Politics data. The founder of Opinion Savvy is the founding publisher of the Southern Political Report.
Bush, whose brother and father won primaries in South Carolina en route to the presidency, was the front-runner in the state before Trump entered the race over the summer.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican who dropped out of the presidential race last month, endorsed Bush on Friday, the same day the poll was taken.
In the new poll, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was sixth at 4 percent with former chief executive Carly Fiorina following at 3 percent.
The poll was conducted the day after the GOP presidential debate took place Thursday in North Charleston. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percent, but the number of likely S.C. GOP presidential primary voters surveyed was not included in the Southern Political Report.
New SC presidential poll
Results of a new poll of likely S.C. Republican presidential primary voters conducted after the debate on Thursday for Morris News Service and InsiderAdvantage, a Georgia political news site. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.7 percent: