Trump seals top slot in first TV debate among Republicans

Only the top 10 in the polls will participate in the first televised debate among primary candidates. 

A new national poll in the US confirms Donald Trump is furthest out in front of the Republicans’ 2016 presidential candidate field.

Initial findings from the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll – one of five leading national polls – show 19% of Republican primary voters pick Mr Trump as their first choice for president.

He is followed by 15% for Wisconsin governor Scott Walker and 14% for Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who led the field in the last Journal/NBC survey in June when Mr Trump scored just 1%.

The new poll is based on a survey conducted from July 26-30, after Mr Trump made widely publicised controversial statements, such as when he disparaged former Republican presidential nominee John McCain.

The share of Republican voters who pick Mr Trump as second choice rose to 11% in the new survey from 3% in June.

The poll assures Mr Trump as one of the top 10 candidates who will participate in the first televised debate, to be hosted by Fox News on Thursday (Friday, NZ time).

Candidates who don’t make the cut will be relegated to a separate forum to be held before the main event.

Mr Trump’s surge in the ratings meant most major candidates have lost ground compared with last month’s poll.

One exception is Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas with 9%, up from 4% last month. Mr Cruz, like Mr Trump, has been campaigning as an outsider with a blunt anti-establishment message.

Women favour Trump more than men
Mr Trump does somewhat better among Republican women than do other candidates: 20% of female Republican primary voters name him as their first choice, followed by 16% who pick Mr Bush.

Three candidates on 3% in the Journal/NBC poll – New Jersey Governor Chris Christie; Texas Governor Rick Perry and Ohio Governor John Kasich – are vying for slots among the top 10.

A retired neurosurgeon, Ben Carson, who is one of the few non-politicians among the 17 candidates, is fourth with 10% followed by Mr Cruz’s 9%; 6% for former governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Rand Paul, of Kentucky; and 5% for Senator Marco Rubio, of Florida.

Among the remainder who could miss the cut are Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former corporate executive Carly Fiorina, all on 1% or less.