Donald Trump still is leading the S.C. Republican presidential race after the weekend’s explosive GOP debate in Greenville.
But the race for second place in Saturday’s primary appears to be narrowing.
Behind Trump, who has 35 percent support in a new poll, U.S. Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas are tied for second place — at 18 percent each, according to a Public Policy Polling survey released exclusively Monday to The State.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is in fourth at 10 percent support, followed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, tied with 7 percent support each.
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Public Policy interviewed 897 likely GOP primary voters Sunday and Monday – the first look at how after Saturday night’s Republican presidential debate affected the race. The poll has a margin of error of 3.3 percentage points.
The GOP poll suggests Trump’s debate performance – in which he criticized former President George W. Bush for the 2001 terror attacks – may not be hurting the frontrunner in a state that has deep ties to the Bush family.
The poll also suggests Rubio could be closing the gap on Cruz, who has finished second to Trump in seven out of the eight S.C. polls taken in 2016.
Clinton still leading
In the Democratic race, frontrunner Hillary Clinton still holds a double-digit lead — 55-34 — over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, according to a separate poll of 525 likely Democratic primary voters.
Sanders and Clinton are tied among white S.C. voters, the poll said. But Clinton has a strong lead among African-American voters, expected to make up more than half of Democratic primary voters. Among those voters, 63 percent said they back Clinton compared to 23 percent for Sanders.
Fourteen percent of black Democratic voters said they were undecided.
Sanders has managed to close the gap on Clinton, according to the poll. In November, Clinton led Sanders 86-11 among African-American voters.
Where the presidential hopefuls stand in the S.C.’s GOP and Democratic primaries, according to new Public Policy Polling surveys:
Feb. 20 S.C. GOP primary
Donald Trump: 35 percent
U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio: 18 percent each
Ohio Gov. John Kasich: 10 percent
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson: 7 percent each
Undecided: 6 percent
Feb. 27 S.C. Democratic primary
Hillary Clinton: 55 percent
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont: 34 percent
Undecided: 12 percent
NOTE: Results add up to more than 100 percent due to rounding