Donald Trump’s controversial remarks on immigration have helped elevate the presidential candidate to the top of the crowded Republican field, according to a poll by the Economist and YouGov.
For 15 percent of respondents, Trump was the preferred presidential candidate for the GOP. Trump came 4 percent ahead of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who were tied for second.
As well as being the first choice for the majority of likely primary voters in the poll, Trump was also the main second choice for those who preferred a different candidate, reports The Hill.
Trump was second in line for the vote for 12 percent of respondents. Only 7 percent picked Bush or Paul as their runner-up candidate.
Registered Republican voters gave Trump a weak chance of maintaining his lead as 29 percent of respondents, a clear majority, said that expect Bush to win the GOP nomination. Only 7 percent said the same of Trump.
The poll’s results are in line with other surveys, including the left-leaning Public Policy Polling. They gave Trump a safe lead in North Carolina.
The comment that many immigrants are criminals, which helped elevate Trump to the position of GOP frontrunner, has also put the business mogul in hot water with party elites.
The head of the Republican National Convention, Reince Priebus, spent nearly an hour on the phone with Trump, urging him to tone down his inflammatory comments on immigration. Priebus worried the comments would alienate Latino voters — a key voting block in presidential elections.
The fear within the Republican Party is that Trump will become the new face of the party and will set back its efforts to rehabilitate the party’s image.
A GOP state party chairman spoke to The Washington Post anonymously. He said of Trump: “He’s already done some damage, and it could be substantial going forward. He could be one of the reasons we lose. It’s that serious. There’s nothing we can do about it, and that’s what’s so scary.”
Trump, on the other hand, denies Priebus chastised him over the phone. “The call lasted for 10 minutes — maximum, maximum 15 minutes,” Trump said, reports The New York Times.
“It was more of a congratulatory call,” Trump said. “He said, ‘Well, you’re really doing well in the polls, you really hit a nerve.’” Trump said he was urged to “keep going.”
Trump recalled that the RNC head added, “It could be that you’ll be No. 1 in the polls.”