Terrorism focus gives GOP edge 6 Republicans top Clinton in head-to-head matchup polls
Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has gained momentum in polls as he vowed heightened security measures that target Muslims in the wake of the Islamic State attack on Paris, with the electorate’s new focus on terrorism boosting several Republican candidates ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton in theoretical matchups.
In head-to-head contests, six of the Republican presidential candidates topped Mrs. Clinton, the front-runner and heavy favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a Fox News poll.
The theoretical wins over Mrs. Clinton ranged from an 8-point spread for Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to 5 points for Mr. Trump and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also beat Mrs. Clinton in the poll.
The shift in the race — Mrs. Clinton had led all the GOP contenders but Mr. Rubio in most recent theoretical matchups — followed voters’ increased concerns about national security following the Paris attack. Terrorism has now supplanted the economy as the most important issue named by voters, the poll found.
Terrorism topped the list of voter concerns with 24 percent, followed by the economy at 21 percent.
Other surveys have given Mrs. Clinton the edge on national security. An ABC/Washington Post poll showed voters trust the former secretary of state to handle the terrorism threat more than any of the Republican candidates.
Nevertheless, Mr. Trump appeared to benefit most from the new focus on national security. He hardened his lead among Republican primary voters nationally and in early-voting New Hampshire, while retaking the lead from Mr. Carson in Iowa, home to the country’s first nominating contest.
Mr. Carson lost ground in both Iowa and New Hampshire, according to a CBS/YouGov poll released Monday.
Republican political strategist Douglas Heye said the focus on national security took part of the blame for Mr. Carson’s falling poll numbers.
“Ben Carson lacks foreign policy knowledge or orientation, which has been laid bare postParis,” he said.
And Mr. Trump gained in the race despite backlash from the news media and some of his Republican rivals for his harsh comments about Muslims, including endorsing the idea of a database to track Muslim Americans.
And several fact-checkers disputed Mr. Trump’s claim over the weekend that thousands of Arab residents in Jersey City, New Jersey, were “cheering as the World Trade Center came down” on Sept. 11.
After the 9/11 attacks there were several news reports about police investigations into celebrations in Jersey City and nearby Paterson. But no evidence was found that the celebrations actually took place, according to PolitiFact, the online fact-checking project by the Tampa Bay Times.
The billionaire businessman broke into the lead in Iowa with 30 percent of the vote among likely Republican caucusgoers, and Mr. Carson tumbled to third place with 19 percent, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas climbed into second place with 21 percent, according to the CBS poll.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Carson were tied at 27 percent in the same poll in October.
The new CBS survey also showed Mr. Trump lengthening his lead and Mr. Carson losing ground in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary. Mr. Trump received 32 percent, followed by Mr. Rubio at 13 percent, and Mr. Carson and Mr. Cruz were tied in third place at 10 percent each.
A month earlier Mr. Trump led with 38 percent and Mr. Carson captured second place with 13 percent.
The latest polls demonstrate how Mr. Trump’s tough talk has resonated with voters who have become more concerned with terrorism and national security following the Paris attack.
On the campaign trail in Nevada, Mr. Carson turned up the volume on his calls for increased surveillance of Muslims in the U.S.
“I would say we use our intelligence and we monitor anything: our mosques, a church, a museum, a supermarket,” the retired neurosurgeon said at a campaign stop in Pahrump, about 60 miles west of Las Vegas.