Trump widens GOP lead, Christie likely to make debate cut

 A volunteer passes out campaign signs for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally and picnic last month in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A volunteer passes out campaign signs for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at a rally and picnic last month in Oskaloosa, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

A Monmouth University poll of Republican voters nationwide finds that Donald Trump is widening his lead.

Trump has a more than 2-1advantage over his nearest rivals with 26 percent support, compared with 12 percent for Jeb Bush and 11 percent for Scott Walker.

With support among conservative, moderate, and liberal Republicans, there’s no clear sense of what defines a Trump voter, said poll director Patrick Murray.

“It just seems to be voters who, for whatever reason, are frustrated with Washington, don’t feel Washington works, and feel that they’re sending a message that people who are political lifers can’t run the government, so let’s give somebody who has never been there at all a chance,” Murray said.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is seventh in the poll with 4 percent support. Having enough support to be included in Thursday’s debate of the top 10 Republican rivals signals to voters and donors that Christie is a realistic contender, Murray said.

“If he had been relegated to the second debate, then it would been seen as an also ran. So it would have hobbled him quite a bit,” he said. “I don’t think it would been the death knell necessarily, but it would have been a handicap that he needed to overcome.”

Murray said only 23 percent of the voters surveyed favor using polls to select the 10 candidates for Thursday’s primetime debate, as Fox News intends to do. That debate is scheduled for 9 p.m. in Cleveland, while the second-tier candidates will debate at 5 p.m.

“Most voters want to see all the candidates given equal time, either having them split in half and randomly assigned to two back-to-back debates,” he said. “Forty-five percent actually support that. Or 29 percent say just put them all on the same stage together, and let’s see them all debate at one time.”

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