Despite GOP Opposition, Poll Shows Trump Reigns Supreme

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The silent majority, the not-so-silent plurality. Far from angering Republicans, Trump's disdain for the party and its institutions has buoyed his support. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The Republican establishment may be plotting his downfall, but, for now at least, Donald Trump reigns supreme.

A new poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University shows Trump at the top of the Republican field with 27 percent of the vote. Ben Carson, who four weeks ago was tied with Trump in some states, has slipped to third place following a string of embarrassing reports, including one in which a Carson adviser bemoaned to The New York Times about Carson's lack of foreign policy expertise.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida comes in second with 17 percent of the vote, while U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is tied with Carson for third with 16 percent.

Many pundits predicted Trump would have quit the race by now. Others predicted the GOP establishment would have thrown its weight behind a more "traditional" candidate, like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. But Walker couldn't secure enough donors and dropped out of the race in September, while the relatively taciturn Bush, widely considered the establishment favorite a year ago, has struggled to make an impact in a race increasingly dominated by Trump's theatrics. Today's poll shows Bush with only 5 percent of the vote.

In fact, some analysts argue the Republican establishment's opposition to Trump may be driving his popularity. When the Republican National Committee more or less forced Trump to sign a "loyalty pledge" stipulating he wouldn't run as a third-party candidate, he agreed. But now that Trump has demonstrated to TV executives that he can bring eyeballs to the debates like no other candidate in history, he appears to be backing off his pledge. And Republican voters, far from being upset that Trump is flouting their party's rules and defying its institutions, like him more than ever.